Coffee machines have become a fixture of many offices and homes, but how about a machine that can mix and dispense cold drinks, saving all those plastic bottles? A team of inventors based in Tampa, Florida, have developed the prototype of a machine that does just that. Called VidaPak, the Keurig coffeemaker-like unit can refrigerate and heat to serve both cold and hot drinks.
The team has developed a patent-pending technology that processes a range of cold drinks quickly and cleanly inside a new type of K-cup called the V-Pak. It can handle a wide range of drink ingredients and ensures the ingredients stay in one single area of the container, so the V-Pak can release the water that comes into it in a regular, steady flow. The right amount of water and air pressure is also key.
The VidaPak machine will have the usual type buttons that a regular Keurig machine will have, plus two additional buttons: one for hot and the other for cold drinks. Once the user chooses and presses the button of their choice, the appropriate logic circuit is activated. Next, the user can choose the size of their drinks. In the case of hot drinks, the user can select 4, 6 or 8 ounces (113, 170 or 227 grams). For cold drinks the options are servings of 8, 10 or 12 ounces (227, 283 or 340 grams).
“The machine itself has been a challenge because traditional compressors to cool beverages are historically very large, very heavy, and very loud. So we came up with an incredibly powerful micro-compressor that is quiet and very efficient. We should be able to keep the machine footprint almost the same size of a traditional single-serve coffee machine,” VidaPak co-creator Bob Gruder tells Gizmag.
So far, the team has completed the fabrication of the steel injection molds for the VidaPak V-Paks, which are ready for mass production. Next, the housing design of the VidaPak machine needs to be finalized around the refrigeration unit. Once the prototype run green-lights the housing design and the proper flow of the fluids, the team will press ahead with the full production runs.
Meanwhile, they are negotiating with companies that make the beverage ingredients in several flavors (grape, orange, sports drinks, lemonade, iced tea, etc) before they begin a production run of the V-Paks. In terms of ingredient supply, Gruder adds that VidaPak will follow in the footsteps of companies such as Keurig and SodaStream, that is, direct sales to mainstream retailers such as Target, Walmart and K Mart, as well as 25 percent via distributors.
The VidaPak team is currently fundraising on Kickstarter. In order to get a machine (when and if they reach production), pledge packages start at US$125, with a further $50 to cover shipping to addresses outside the US.