Title:
Method and Apparatus for Chilling Draught Beverages
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides an apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means. The apparatus has a heat exchanger, a tank for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid and a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage. The reservoir is located in the tank for submersion in the coolant fluid. A first conduit delivers the beverage from the container to the heat exchanger while a second conduit delivers beverage to the reservoir. A third conduit delivers beverage from the reservoir to the dispensing means. The invention allows for the delivery of cold beverage form the container over a distance to the dispensing means.



Inventors:
Hess, Markus (Thomhill, CA)
Carter, Phil (King City, CA)
Chiusolo, Sam (Port Perry, CA)
Application Number:
11/663468
Publication Date:
11/29/2007
Filing Date:
09/08/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B67D7/80
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TAPOLCAI, WILLIAM E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising: a trunk line including a beverage conduit for delivering the beverage from the container, the trunk line further including a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid for delivering the coolant fluid; a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the apparatus further comprises a housing connected to the trunk line, the heat exchanger and the reservoir being located in the housing, the housing being adapted to hold a quantity of coolant fluid for submersing said heat exchanger and said reservoir.

3. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the housing defines a first sub-compartment and a second sub-compartment, the heat exchanger being located in the first sub-compartment and the reservoir being located in the second sub-compartment.

4. An apparatus according to claim 3 wherein a fin is formed on an exterior wall of the reservoir for enhancing circulation of the coolant fluid over the reservoir.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein pins are attached to an exterior wall of the reservoir to promote heat exchange.

6. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the heat exchanger is a shell in tube heat exchanger or a flat plate heat exchanger.

7. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the heat exchanger is a serpentine coil.

8. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the coolant fluid is either water of glycol.

9. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the beverage is beer.

10. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the reservoir is in contact with a source of cooling.

11. An apparatus according to claim 10 wherein the source of cooling is a coolant fluid.

12. An apparatus according to claim 11 wherein the reservoir is submerged in the coolant fluid.

13. An apparatus according to claim 12 wherein the coolant fluid is glycol.

14. An apparatus according to claim 1 further comprising a probe for measuring the temperature of one of the coolant fluid and the beverage, the probe being adapted to cooperate with sensors to send a signal to a refrigeration unit for the coolant fluid so that the refrigeration unit may be alternately turned on or off in order to regulate the temperature of the coolant fluid.

15. An apparatus according to claim 14 wherein the probe is located in at least one of the coolant fluid conduit, the beverage conduit, the chamber and the heat exchanger.

16. An apparatus according to claim 1 wherein the reservoir is located before the heat exchanger so that beverage fills the reservoir before entering the heat exchanger.

17. An apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising: a housing defining a chamber for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid, the housing further defining an inlet and an outlet; a heat exchanger located in the chamber, the heat exchanger defining a inlet, an outlet and a passageway communicating between the inlet and the outlet. a reservoir located in the chamber, the reservoir defining a storage chamber for holding a quantity of the beverage, said reservoir further defining an inlet and an outlet in fluid communication with the storage chamber; a first beverage conduit received in the inlet of the housing and the inlet of the heat exchanger for delivering beverage to the passageway of the heat exchanger; a second beverage conduit received in the outlet of the heat exchanger for delivering the beverage to the reservoir, the second beverage conduit being received in the inlet of the reservoir; and a third beverage conduit for delivering the beverage from the outlet of the reservoir to the dispensing means.

18. An apparatus according to claim 17 wherein the heat exchanger further includes a housing defining a chamber for holding a quantity of the coolant fluid, the housing defining a coolant fluid inlet and a coolant fluid outlet, and an inlet and an outlet for receiving the passageway, the passageway being a coil located in the chamber.

19. An apparatus according to claim 17 wherein the heat exchanger is a flat plate heat exchanger immersed in the coolant fluid.

20. An apparatus according to claim 17 further comprising a source of coolant fluid, a first coolant fluid conduit for delivering coolant fluid to the chamber and a second coolant fluid conduit received in the second outlet of the heat exchanger for circulating the coolant fluid back to the source of coolant fluid.

21. An apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising: a housing defining a chamber for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid, the housing further defining an inlet and an outlet; a heat exchanging means located in the chamber, the heat exchanging means defining a beverage passageway having an inlet and an outlet; a reservoir located in the chamber for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir having an inlet and an outlet; a beverage conduit communicating between the container, the heat exchanging means, the reservoir and the dispensing means to define a beverage flow path from the container through the heat exchanging means and the reservoir to the dispensing means; a source of coolant fluid for delivering coolant fluid to the housing; and a coolant fluid conduit for communicating between the heat exchange means and the source of coolant fluid to define a flow path between the heat exchange means and the source of coolant fluid.

22. An apparatus according to claim 21 further comprising a probe for measuring the temperature of one of the coolant fluid and the beverage, the probe being adapted to cooperate with sensors to send a signal to a refrigeration unit for the coolant fluid so that the refrigeration unit may be alternately turned on or off in order to regulate the temperature of the coolant fluid.

23. An apparatus according to claim 22 wherein the probe is located in at least one of the chamber and the heat exchanger.

24. An apparatus according to claim 21 wherein the reservoir is located before the heat exchanger so that beverage fills the reservoir before entering the heat exchanger.

25. A method of maintaining a cool temperature in a beverage delivered through a beverage conduit from a container to a dispensing means comprising the following steps: providing a trunk line comprising the beverage conduit and a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid; providing a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; providing a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet; delivering coolant fluid through the coolant fluid conduit to the heat exchanger; delivering the beverage through the beverage conduit from the container through the heat exchanger for heat exchange with the coolant fluid; delivering the beverage to the reservoir; and delivering the beverage from the reservoir to the dispensing means.

26. The method according to claim 21 further including the step of submerging the reservoir in a coolant fluid.

27. The method according to claim 22 further including the step of submerging the heat exchanger in a coolant fluid.

28. A method of maintaining a cool temperature in a beverage delivered through a beverage conduit from a container to a dispensing means comprising the following steps: providing a trunk line comprising the beverage conduit and a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid; providing a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; providing a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet; delivering the beverage to the reservoir; delivering the beverage from the reservoir to the heat exchanger for heat exchange with the coolant fluid; and delivering the beverage from the heat exchanger to the dispensing means.

29. The method according to claim 28 further including the step of submerging the reservoir in a coolant fluid.

30. The method according to claim 29 further including the step of submerging the heat exchanger in a coolant fluid.

31. An apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising: a trunk line including a beverage conduit for delivering the beverage from the container, the trunk line further including a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid for delivering the coolant fluid; a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; a temperature probe for measuring the temperature of one of the coolant fluid and the beverage, the probe being adapted to cooperate with sensors to send a signal to a refrigeration unit for the coolant fluid so that the refrigeration unit may be alternately turned on or off in order to regulate the temperature of the coolant fluid.

32. An apparatus according to claim 31 wherein the probe is located in one of the heat exchanger, the coolant fluid conduit and the beverage conduit.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to apparatuses, methods and processes for cooling and dispensing beverages.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Draught beverages in restaurants, bars, stadiums and other public facilities are dispensed using systems that consist of a storage container that is kept cool in a remote refrigerator. Typically, a cooled supply line takes the beverage to a dispensing faucet. Generally, the beverages are stored in containers that are kept in remote walk-in refrigerators that are also used to chill foods as required by the facility's kitchen. Drinks may be dispensed at a location several hundred feet away from the storage container. The beverage trunk line used to transport the beverage to the dispensing tap is generally made up of a multi-line insulated construction that contains two central cooling liquid lines that will bring a cold glycol/water mixture or ice water to the dispensing faucet and back to maintain the beverage's temperature. This system has the drawback of providing inconsistent cooling performance. This is due to the fact that the temperature inside the walk-in cooler can fluctuate widely as personnel enter and exit during busy times. Also, the beverage trunk line can travel through areas of varying ambient temperatures thereby raising the beverage temperature.

There have been attempts to overcome these problems. These attempts have included the use of a heat exchanger placed near the tap to chill the beverage with a glycol/water mixture or ice water just before it is dispensed. These methods also have drawbacks. Efficient heat exchangers rely on exposing a large surface area of beverage to the cooling liquid. This inherently limits the volume of beverage that can be reasonably kept inside an efficient heat exchanger. Beverages are poured in batches or servings and the dwell time between servings enhances cooling rates. If the frequency of servings becomes too great, the temperature of the beverage will increase as dwell time is minimized. Usually, only a fraction of the volume of a full serving resides in the heat exchanger. This fraction of the beverage will mix with any warm beverage that is found between the heat exchanger and the tap. It will also mix with beverage that passes quickly through the heat exchanger with a limited or no dwell time. This results in a beverage being served at temperatures warmer than desired.

There is therefore a need for a beverage dispensing apparatus that dispenses cold beverage servings even where the beverage must be delivered over a significant distance and where there are significant periods of time between consecutive pours.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method and apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure through a distribution conduit to a dispensing means. The beverage is preferably a carbonated beverage and most preferably is beer. The apparatus of the present invention has a heat exchanger and a reservoir. The beverage is transmitted through a conduit from a container through the heat exchanger and the reservoir to a dispensing means. The reservoir holds a quantity of cooled beverage. The reservoir is preferably in contact with a source of cooling for providing additional cooling between such dispensing events.

According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising a trunk line including a beverage conduit for delivering the beverage from the container, the trunk line further including a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid for delivering the coolant fluid; a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; and a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising:

    • a heat exchanger defining a first passageway having an inlet and an outlet through which the beverage may be delivered, the heat exchanger further defining a second passageway having an inlet and an outlet for delivering a coolant fluid through the heat exchanger in sufficient proximity to the first passageway to permit heat exchange between the coolant fluid and the beverage;
    • a tank for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid;
    • a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being located in the tank for submersion in said coolant fluid, the reservoir defining an inlet and an outlet and a passageway between the inlet and the outlet;
    • a first conduit for delivering the beverage from the container to the inlet of the first passageway of the heat exchanger;
    • a second conduit for delivering beverage from the outlet of the heat exchanger to the inlet of the reservoir;
    • a third conduit for delivering beverage from the reservoir to the dispensing means.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising:

    • a housing defining a chamber for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid, the housing further defining an inlet and an outlet;
    • a heat exchanger located in the chamber, the heat exchanger defining a inlet, an outlet and a passageway communicating between the inlet and the outlet.
    • a reservoir located in the chamber, the reservoir defining a storage chamber for holding a quantity of the beverage, said reservoir further defining an inlet and an outlet in fluid communication with the storage chamber;
    • a first beverage conduit received in the inlet of the housing and the inlet of the heat exchanger for delivering beverage to the passageway of the heat exchanger;
    • a second beverage conduit received in the outlet of the heat exchanger for delivering the beverage to the reservoir, the second beverage conduit being received in the inlet of the reservoir; and
    • a third beverage conduit for delivering the beverage from the outlet of the reservoir to the dispensing means.

According to yet another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for delivering a beverage under pressure from a container to a dispensing means comprising:

    • a housing defining a chamber for holding a quantity of a coolant fluid, the housing further defining an inlet and an outlet;
    • a heat exchanging means located in the chamber, the heat exchanging means defining a beverage passageway having an inlet and an outlet;
    • a reservoir located in the chamber for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir having an inlet an outlet;
    • a beverage conduit communicating between the container, the heat exchanging means, the reservoir and the dispensing means to define a beverage flow path from the container through the heat exchanging means and the reservoir to the dispensing means;
    • a source of coolant fluid for delivering coolant fluid to the housing; and
    • a coolant fluid conduit for communicating between the heat exchange means and the source of coolant fluid to define a flow path between the heat exchange means and the source of coolant fluid.

According to another aspect of the present invention there is provided a method for delivering a beverage under pressure through a distribution line to a dispensing means. The method involves providing a source of beverage under pressure. The method involves delivering the beverage through a heat exchanger and then delivering the beverage to a reservoir that is submerged in a coolant fluid. The method involves storing the beverage in the reservoir and then dispensing the beverage from the reservoir through a dispensing means.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of maintaining a cool temperature in a beverage delivered through a beverage conduit from a container to a dispensing means comprising the steps of providing a trunk line comprising the beverage conduit and a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid; providing a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; providing a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet; delivering coolant fluid through the coolant fluid conduit to the heat exchanger; delivering the beverage through the beverage conduit from the container through the heat exchanger for heat exchange with the coolant fluid; delivering the beverage to the reservoir; and delivering the beverage from the reservoir to the dispensing means.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of maintaining a cool temperature in a beverage delivered through a beverage conduit from a container to a dispensing means comprising the following steps: providing a trunk line comprising the beverage conduit and a coolant fluid conduit connected to a source of coolant fluid; providing a heat exchanger defining an inlet for receiving the coolant fluid conduit and an outlet for the coolant fluid conduit, the heat exchanger further defining an inlet for receiving the beverage conduit, an outlet for the beverage conduit and a heat exchanging surface for heat exchange between the beverage and the coolant fluid; providing a reservoir for holding a quantity of the beverage, the reservoir being connected to the heat exchanger, the reservoir defining an inlet for receiving the beverage and a beverage outlet; delivering the beverage to the reservoir; delivering the beverage from the reservoir to the heat exchanger for heat exchange with the coolant fluid; and delivering the beverage from the heat exchanger to the dispensing means.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a beverage dispensing apparatus of the present invention connected to a beverage container and a source of a coolant fluid;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of the beverage dispensing apparatus of the present invention taken along lines 2-2 of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a sectional view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of a beverage dispensing apparatus of the present invention connected to a beverage container and a source of a coolant fluid;

FIG. 5 is a front elevation view of a heat exchange/reservoir unit of the alternate embodiment of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of the heat exchange/reservoir unit taken along lines 6-6 of FIG. 5; and

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the heat exchange/reservoir unit taken along lines 7-7 of FIG. 5.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIG. 1. Apparatus 1 has a housing 2. The apparatus is preferably located in a beverage tower 70 that has a dispensing means 72 which is preferably a dispensing tap.

The apparatus is used in conjunction with a beverage container 86 which is preferably a beer keg. The beverage in the container 86 is preferably kept under pressure by a pressurizing means 80 which is connected to the beverage container 86. In addition, the apparatus 1 is preferably used in combination with a source 88 of coolant fluid. Preferably, the source 88 is a glycol tank and the coolant fluid is glycol. Other coolant fluids such as ice water can also be used for the purposes of the present invention. Preferably, the container 86, the pressurizing means 80 and the source 88 are located in a refrigeration unit 100 such as a walk-in refrigerator.

A beverage conduit 94 communicates between the container and the apparatus 1. A coolant fluid supply conduit 90 and a coolant fluid return conduit 96 communicate between the source 88 and the apparatus 1. Preferably, beverage conduit 94, coolant fluid supply conduit 90 and coolant fluid return conduit 96 are located in close proximity in a trunk line 4 that communicates between the refrigeration unit 100 and the apparatus 1. This provides an additional cooling benefit as the beverage in the beverage conduit is kept in close proximity to the coolant fluid in the coolant fluid supply conduit 90 and the coolant fluid return conduit 96.

As shown in FIG. 2, the housing 2 defines a chamber 36. The housing is preferably insulated. In the preferred embodiment, the chamber is L-shaped having a first section 22 and second section 26. It will be readily appreciated by a person skilled in the art that the chamber need not be of any particular shape nor is it essential that the chamber have discrete sections. The chamber 36 can assume various different shapes for the purposes of the present invention. The housing may also be provided in the form of a tank. The housing is preferably filled with the coolant fluid.

The housing has an inlet 10 for receiving the beverage conduit 94. The housing further defines an outlet 12 for receiving coolant fluid return conduit 96. In addition, the housing has an outlet 38 for receiving a third beverage conduit 48 and an inlet 24 for receiving the coolant fluid supply conduit 90.

A heat exchanger 6 is preferably located in the chamber 36. In the preferred embodiment, the heat exchanger 6 is located in the first section 22 of the chamber 36. In alternate embodiments, it is possible for the heat exchanger 6 to be located outside of the housing 2. In yet another alternate embodiment it is possible to separate the first section 22 of the chamber 36 from the second section 26 of the chamber 36 with a fluid impermeable barrier such that it is possible to fill only the second section 26 of the chamber 36 with a coolant fluid while leaving the first section of the chamber 22 free of coolant fluid. In other embodiments, the apparatus may include two or more heat exchangers as discussed in more detail below.

In the preferred embodiment, the heat exchanger has a housing 8. The heat exchanger 6 is preferably a flat plate heat exchanger known in the art. As is known to a person skilled in the art, a flat plate heat exchanger is a heat exchanger which imparts heat from one liquid to another. This heat exchanger is made from a series of plates that have been corrugated or dimpled to expand heat exchange area. The plates are stacked so that passageways exist between the plates. Cooling and cooled liquids pass through alternate spaces so that heat exchange area is maximized.

In an alternate embodiment, the heat exchanger can be a coil in tube heat exchanger such that the heat exchanger defines a chamber for holding a quantity of the coolant fluid. In this alternate embodiment, a conduit in the form of a heat exchange coil is located in the chamber of the heat exchanger for transmitting the beverage through the coil thereby permitting heat exchange between the beverage in the coil and the coolant fluid in the chamber of the heat exchanger. The coil is made of an acceptable heat exchanging material known in the art such as stainless steel. A person skilled in the art will readily appreciate that any heat exchanger known in the art for cooling a fluid flowing through a conduit may be employed for the purposes of the present invention.

The housing 8 of the heat exchanger 6 has an inlet 14 for receiving the beverage conduit 94. The housing 8 of the heat exchanger 6 further has an outlet 16 for receiving a second beverage conduit 30. The housing 8 of the heat exchanger 6 further defines an inlet 20 for receiving coolant fluid from the chamber 36 and an outlet 18 for receiving the coolant fluid return conduit 96.

In another alternate embodiment of the present invention, the heat exchanger 6 may not have a housing. It is possible to provide a the heat exchanger 6 in the form of a coil in the chamber 36 such that the coil is submerged in the coolant fluid and heat exchange can occur directly in the chamber 36 between beverage flowing through the coil and coolant fluid that is located in the chamber 36.

A reservoir 40 is located in the chamber 36. The reservoir by definition defines a space therein for holding a quantity of liquid beverage. The reservoir 40 is preferably elongate in shape and located in the second section 26 of the chamber 36. However, the reservoir 40 is not to be limited to any particular shape and may be located in any of various locations in the chamber 36. In the preferred embodiment the reservoir has a fin 46 on an exterior surface of the reservoir 40. The fin 46 allows for greater contact area between the reservoir 40 and the coolant fluid in the chamber 36 to enhance heat transfer from the beverage to the coolant fluid. However, in other embodiments, the fin need not be present. In yet other embodiments, it is possible to tightly wrap the coolant fluid conduit preferably in the form of a tube around the reservoir. This removes any need to submerge the reservoir in coolant fluid.

The reservoir 40 defines an inlet 42 for receiving second beverage conduit 30 and an outlet 44 for receiving the third beverage conduit 48. The third beverage conduit 48 conduit is connected to the dispensing means 72 as shown in FIG. 1.

In alternate embodiments the reservoir is placed before the heat exchanger so that the coolant fluid is received in the reservoir before it goes to the heat exchanger. This is beneficial because the beverage is cooled in the reservoir as a result of cooling provided by the coolant fluid to the reservoir. Since the beverage is colder as result of having been held in the reservoir prior to entering the heat exchanger, the load on the coolant fluid is less than it otherwise would have been. This results in less energy being required to cool the beverage in the heat exchanger and a lesser load on the overall system. It is of course possible in this embodiment to have the beverage flow into a second reservoir after leaving the heat exchanger.

In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the coolant fluid is glycol and is delivered from the glycol tank 88 into the chamber 36 through the inlet 24 via the coolant fluid supply conduit 90. The chamber is preferably filled with glycol so that the reservoir 40 and the heat exchanger 6 are completely submerged in glycol. The glycol in the chamber 36 enters the heat exchanger 6 through the inlet 16, circulates through the heat exchanger 6 and leaves the heat exchanger 6 through the coolant fluid return conduit 96. The coolant fluid is circulated back to the source 88 through the coolant fluid return conduit 96 and then re-circulated back to the chamber 36 as discussed above.

In the preferred embodiment, beer is delivered from the container 86 which is a beer keg through the beverage conduit 94 to the housing 2. The beer is then delivered through beverage conduit 94 to the heat exchanger. In the preferred embodiment, the beer enters the coil in the heat exchanger from the beverage conduit 94. Heat exchange occurs between the beer in the coil and the coolant fluid as the beer travels through the coil thereby cooling the beer. The coil is continuous with the second beverage conduit 30 so that the beer leaves the heat exchanger 6 through the second beverage conduit 30. The beer flows through the second beverage conduit 30 into the reservoir 40. The beer remains in the reservoir 40 until the dispensing means 72 is actuated causing the beer to flow through the outlet 44 into the third beverage conduit 48 and through the dispensing means. The reservoir provides an additional cooling benefit as the beer remains in the reservoir and is cooled by the surrounding coolant fluid between pours or dispensing events.

A probe 98 as shown in FIG. 2 is preferably located in the second section 26 of the chamber 36. The probe 98 measures the temperature of the coolant fluid and is adapted to preferably cooperate with sensors to send a signal to the refrigeration unit for the coolant fluid so that the refrigeration unit may be alternately turned on or off in order to regulate the temperature of the coolant fluid in the chamber 36.

A person skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the probe can be placed at other locations in other embodiments for purposes of the present invention. For example, the probe can measure the temperature of the coolant fluid at a portion of the second section 26 that is closest to the outlet 44. Alternatively the probe may measure the temperature of the coolant fluid at other locations in the chamber 36. In yet other embodiments, the probe may be located in the heat exchanger to measure the temperature of the coolant fluid therein. In such cases, it is preferable to measure the temperature of the coolant fluid at the inlet of the heat exchanger. A person skilled in the art will appreciate that where there is a counter or reverse flow of coolant fluid relative to the beverage generated, there is optimal heat exchange. It is also possible to locate the probe at the outlet of the heat exchanger.

In yet other embodiments the probe may be used to measure the temperature of the beverage being circulated rather than the coolant fluid. Although the beverage temperature can be measured at any point along the flow path defined by conduits 62, 66 and 102, it is preferred that the temperature of the beverage is measured in the reservoir and most preferably at the inlet of the reservoir where there is a counter or reverse flow. A person skilled in the art will also appreciate that apparatus may include a plurality of temperature probes.

In another embodiment, the apparatus comprises a trunk line having a coolant fluid conduit and a beverage conduit. A heat exchanger is located preferably close to the dispensing means. There is no reservoir in this embodiment. The probe is located in the heat exchanger or the inlet of the coolant conduit or the exit of beverage conduit. The probe tightly controls the temperature of the coolant fluid or the beverage. This allows for control and predictability of the beverage temperature.

An alternate embodiment 50 of an apparatus the present invention is shown in FIG. 3. The alternate embodiment also is used in association with a beverage container in which the beverage is preferably kept under pressure by a pressurizing means. In addition, the apparatus 50 is also preferably used in combination with a source of coolant fluid. Preferably, the container, the pressurizing means and the source of coolant fluid are also located in a refrigeration unit such as a walk-in refrigerator.

The apparatus 50 has a housing 52 preferably having insulation 60. The housing defines a chamber 54. A heat exchange coil 64 is located in the chamber 54. The coil surrounds a reservoir 56 that is also located in the chamber 54. The reservoir defines a reservoir chamber 58. A coolant fluid is introduced into the chamber 54 through conduit 106. The coolant fluid is again preferably glycol. The coolant fluid leaves the chamber through conduit 104.

In operation, the chamber 54 is filled with coolant fluid so that the heat exchange coil 64 is completely submerged in the coolant fluid. The beverage which is again preferably beer enters the coil through conduit 62. The beer flows through the coil where heat exchange occurs between the beer in the coil and the coolant fluid in the chamber 54. The beer flows from the coil 64 through a conduit 66 into the reservoir 56. The beer remains in the reservoir 56 until the dispensing means is actuated causing the beer to flow through conduit 102 to the dispensing means. The reservoir again provides an additional cooling benefit as the beer remains in the reservoir and is cooled by the surrounding coolant fluid between pours or dispensing events.

Another alternate embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 4-7. In this embodiment, a heat exchanger and a beverage reservoir are combined into a single unit 110. The unit 110 is located in the trunk line 4 as shown in FIG. 4. The unit 110 is preferably a flat plate heat exchanger that defines at least one reservoir and preferably two reservoirs for holding a quantity of fluid.

An exterior of the unit 110 is shown in FIG. 5. The unit 110 has a housing 108. The unit 110 has a beverage inlet 112 connected to the beverage conduit 94. The unit 110 also has a beverage outlet 114. In this embodiment, the beverage conduit 94 connects to the beverage outlet 114 and communicates between the unit 110 and the apparatus 1.

The unit 110 also has a coolant fluid inlet 116 connected to the coolant fluid conduit 96. The unit 110 also has a coolant fluid outlet 118. In this embodiment, the coolant fluid conduit 96 connects to the coolant fluid outlet 118 and communicates between the unit 110 and the apparatus 1.

The internal features of the unit 110 are shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. FIG. 6 shows the internal features defining a flow path of the beverage through the unit 110. The unit 110 has a plurality of plates 122 and defines horizontal passageways 128 therebetween. Interior portions of the plates 122 receive coolant fluid for cooling the plates and providing a heat exchange surface for the beverage flowing through the horizontal passageways 128. The unit 110 also defines vertical passageways 124 and 126. The unit further defines a first beverage reservoir 130 and a second beverage reservoir 140. Plate 96 receives coolant fluid and provides a heat exchange surface for cooling beverage contained in the first beverage reservoir 130. Similarly plate 146 receives coolant fluid and provides a heat exchange surface for cooling beverage contained in the second beverage reservoir 140.

FIG. 7 shows the internal features defining a flow path of the coolant fluid through the unit 110. The unit 110 has a plurality of plates 132 and defines horizontal passageways 138 therebetween. The plates 132 receive beverage. The unit 110 also defines vertical passageways 134 and 136.

The beverage flows from the conduit 94 into inlet the 112 and into the reservoir 130. The beverage is cooled in the reservoir through contact with the plate 96. The beverage flows from the reservoir 130 through the vertical passageway 124 to the horizontal passageways 128. The beverage exits from the horizontal passageways 128 through the vertical passageway 126 and exits from the outlet 114.

Coolant fluid enters through the inlet 116 to take advantage of counter-flow heat exchange and flows through the vertical passageway 134 to the horizontal passageways 138. The coolant fluid exits from the horizontal passageways 128 through the vertical passageway 136 into the second beverage reservoir 140 where the beverage is cooled through contact with the plate 146. The beverage exits from the outlet 118.

In the alternate embodiment described in FIGS. 4-7, the housing 36 does not include a further heat exchanger or reservoir. The beverage conduit runs through the housing 36 to the dispensing tap.

In other embodiments, the apparatus 1 may have the same features as the preferred embodiment, namely the heat exchanger 6 and the reservoir 40 in addition to unit 100 in the trunk line. Hence, in this alternate embodiment, there are two heat exchangers and two reservoirs.

Alternate embodiments are within the scope of the present invention wherein the unit 110 is a triple pass or multi-pass heat exchanger.

In yet another alternate embodiment, unit 110 may simply be a reservoir located in a trunk line as shown in FIG. 4. In this embodiment, a coolant fluid conduit preferably in the form of a tube is tightly wrapped around the reservoir.

A person skilled in the art will readily appreciate that various different permutations and combinations of heat exchangers and reservoirs are within the scope of the present invention. For example, embodiments could include two or more heat exchangers with reservoirs before, between and following the heat exchangers. Various different types of reservoirs and heat exchangers known in the art can also be employed to carry out the present invention.

Various embodiments of the present invention having been thus described in detail by way of example, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that variations and modifications may be made without departing from the invention. The invention includes all such variations and modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims.