Thursday, December 6, 2018

Oh, patents ! Ember® Mugs

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Any reluctance you might have in paying $149$ for what looks like another insulated travel mug, to keep your beverage warm or cold, may vanish, once you find out just how smart the Ember® mugs can be.

Two models of the Ember® mugs are marketed: the Ember® 10 oz ceramic mugs ($80), and the Ember® 12 oz travel mugs ($149).

The Ember® mugs recharge on their coasters and are Bluetooth®-connected to an Ember® app. The Ember® app, compatible with Apple and Android devices, enables you to:
  • control the ideal temperature of your drink
  • store presets according to different sorts of beverages
  • track your consumption
  • name, or color-code, your mug
  • receive notifications for when your beverage has reached its optimum temperature
  • keep your beverage at its optimal temperature for one hour
Thus, no more cold coffee (or warm soda when cold drinkware containers are launched), Your drink will retain its ideal temperature “from the first sip to the last”!

The Ember® travel mug is a completely autonomous mug with a rotatable temperature setting dial at the base of the mug, and touch activation on the body of the mug.  Both mugs are otherwise preset to 130 degrees F. Using the app, the preset temperature setting may also be adjusted to preferred or recommended temperatures, ranging between 120 and 145 degrees F.

The visually stunning ceramic mugs come in white, black, or recently in copper. The latest equally stunning travel version of the Ember® ceramic mugs is equipped with a push-to-open, leakproof lid, offering a lip interface designed for a 360-degree sipping experience. The design of the Ember® mugs has garnered several awards such as one of Time magazine’s 25 Best inventions of the year in 2017, and an IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America) International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) in the Kitchen and Accessory category, also in 2017. 

The Ember® beverage temperature control invention is recited in the 2018 patent application, US2018084943, titled Heated or cooled drinkware. The abstract of this invention is included below together with the patent figure 1 drawing, depicting a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the drinkware container. 
An actively heated or cooled beverage container includes a body chosen from a group consisting of a mug, a cup and a travel mug, the body having a chamber configured to receive and hold a food or beverage therein. The container has a temperature control system that includes a phase change material positioned about at least a portion of the chamber that removes heat from the beverage disposed in the chamber that has a temperature above a predetermined drinking temperature to lower the temperature of the beverage toward the predetermined drinking temperature. One or more heating elements positioned in thermal communication with a different portion of the chamber than the phase change material. The temperature control system also has control circuitry configured to control the operation of the heating element. The temperature control system also includes a ring rotatably coupled to a distal end of the body, the ring configured to rotate about a central axis of the container relative to a proximal portion of the body and to communicate with the control circuitry.
Internaitonal Design Excellence Awards (IDEA)
Time Magazine 25 Best Inventions in 2017

Saturday, December 1, 2018

World AIDS Day 2018

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Today is World AIDS Day

The first WHO (World Health Organization) World AIDS Day public health campaign was celebrated in 1988, 30 years ago. The theme for this year’s campaign is an explanation “Why the HIV epidemic is not over”. Indeed, the statistics are still staggering.

  • Since the late 80s, 70 million people in the world have contracted HIV, 35 million people have died.
  • Today, about 37 million are living with HIV, 22 million are receiving treatment
  • In 2017, 1.8 million people were newly infected.
  • Approx. 1 million people are still dying each year from HIV-related causes (940,000 in 2017).
  • Sub-Saharan Africa remains the area with the highest infection rates, estimated at 25.7 million in 2017.
  • Every minute, every day, a girl between the ages of 15 and 24 is infected with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 1 in 4 people who have HIV don’t know.
  • There is no cure for HIV.
  • Effective ART (anti-retroviral therapy) drugs exist which can control viral loads, enabling long, healthy and productive lives.
  • The costs of these treatments are still largely prohibitive.
  • Between 2000 and 2017, HIV infections dropped 36% and HIV-related deaths dropped 38%, with 11.4 million lives saved through ART drugs.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Oh, patents! Menier's Bouisset ads

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Menier commissioned the artist Firmin Bouisset to advertise for the company's new chocolate bars. Bouisset depicted his daughter Yvonne writing "Chocolat Menier" on the wall with a chocolate bar. Alternatively, Yvonne is depicted writing "Évitez les contrefaçons" (Beware of counterfeits), an important message, on which Menier had built its pharmaceutical reputation.

For pharmaceuticals, this meant guaranteeing the purity and source of the ingredients processed as powders, so that they might be effective products. 

For household chocolate, this meant providing quality chocolate bars produced without substitutes for cacao, which was an expensive imported raw material. It also meant recognizing counterfeit wrappers where Menier's name might have been replaced with misleading versions. For example, court records exist for counterfeit wrappers using the names  "Murier, Meunier, Meinier, Nemier, Merier and Nenien" in place of Menier, on otherwise identical Menier chocolate bar wrappers displaying the company's first two medals awarded, or embossed on the bars.
Meunier counterfeit wrapper

Jean-Antoine-Brutus Ménier et la Fondation de la Maison Centrale de la Droguerie
Saga Menier

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Oh, patents! The Menier (Saulnier) chocolate factory watermill

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Jules Saulnier’s remodel of the old Menier watermill factory was spectacular. Saulnier built an iron supporting frame for the factory, where it was no longer feasible to use a wood weight-bearing frame that could withstand all the vibrations of the heavy cacao production machinery, in use on all three floors of the factory. 

Saulnier also designed the iron frame as esthetically visible on the outside of the building. The iron joists were crossed in a geometric diamond pattern, accented with brick-mosaic cladding. The brick cladding displayed a diamond geometric pattern, using light colored bricks in the background, blue bricks at the intersection of the joists, and darker bricks for the mosaic diamonds. 

Three different sorts of ceramic inlays were also added to the brick cladding. The ceramic inlays depict “M” for Menier, the cocoa tree and a geometric pattern. Saulnier explicitly cited oriental architecture as the source of inspiration for the decorative façade work, in his effort to bring beauty to an otherwise gray and bleak industrial landscape.

The architectural success of the renovation, in turn, amplified Menier chocolate sales, giving the company an unanticipated source of publicity.  

Saulnier also transformed the inside of the watermill into a then state-of-the-art facility for cacao and chocolate production, streamlining  (with no pun intended) all aspects of production on the three floors of the building, where all the machinery was located for such processes as roasting, grinding, conching and cooling. 

To expand the watermill Saulnier added a fourth stone pile foundation. To power all the new machinery, he replaced the waterwheels with three modern turbines. 

In 1992, the old Menier (Saulnier-remodeled) watermill chocolate factory was listed as the first industrial monument of historical significance in France.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Oh, patents! Menier stacked millstones

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
US835286 - Grinding Machine

The 1906 US patent version of a second Menier mechanical engineering invention, US835286, also titled Grinding Machine, concerns two stacked millstones. One millstone (a) is concave and mounted on a shaft. The other millstone (b) is convex and mounted on a feeding shaft. Both millstones are perfectly fitted to grind one on top of the other. However, the lower concave millstone (a) of this invention oscillates independently of the rotating forces of the upper millstone (b). The upper convex millstone (b) rotates and its pressure (weight) is adjustable depending on the substance ground, and the degree of particle fineness required. The shaft of the upper convex millstone is also hollow, enabling to feed the substance for grinding to the center of both millstones. 

One of the US835286 patent drawings is included, showing a vertical section of the stacked millstones assembly with the oscillating lower millstone (a), and feeding shaft of the upper rotating millstone (b).

FR338809 (A) ― 1904-08-04  - Broyeur pour substances de toutes natures (Original French patent)

Monday, November 19, 2018

Oh, patents! Menier cone-shaped millstones

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

The Menier mechanical engineering patents each concern different sorts of millstones, and their improved grinding efficiency.

US788113 - Grinding Machine (Menier)
Considering the US version (in English), the first 1905 Menier mechanical engineering patent, US788113titled Grinding Machine, concerns cone-shaped millstones. One central cone-shaped millstone (a) is flanked by two inverted cone-shaped millstones (b), suited to grind fluid, semi-fluid and pasty materials. All three cone-shaped millstones are mounted on shafts. The outer millstone shafts rotate relative to the central millstone with adjustable spring-driven (c) pressure, depending on the substance and the degree of particle fineness required. The central millstone shaft also rotates on its own axis but at a much slower pace, and it is hollow. The hollow central shaft enables to feed the substances for grinding to the flat base of the central cone (a), where the substances are drawn to spiral up the inverse rotating cones. As the substances spiral up to the flat surface of the inverse cones (b), they travel repeatedly between the central (a) and side (b) cones, where they are ground. 

The single US788113 patent drawing is included above. It depicts a vertical section of the central and inverted cone-shaped millstones assembly, including the central feeding shaft and two side shafts.

FR332855 (A) ― 1903-11-10 - Broyeur à meules coniques opposées pour le broyage intensif des matières fluides, semi-fluides ou pateuses  (Original French patent)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Oh, patents! Chocolat Menier (1)

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

For anyone who ever doubted the curative properties of chocolate, it took a pharmaceutical company founded in 1816 by Antoine Brutus Menier to open France’s first mechanized mass producing cacao powder factory in 1825. Indeed, the original Menier pharmaceutical company, founded in Paris, used cacao powder for medicinal purposes, together with other pulverized mineral and botanical substances.

Remodeled Noisiel watermill chocolate factory on the River Marne
The Menier factory, established in Noisiel, Seine-et-Marne (16 miles east of Paris), rented the hydropower of an old watermill, to boost the production of its pharmaceutical powders. 

Indeed, the watermill factory in Noisiel, built on the River Marne enabled Menier to transition from hand and living horse powered grinding to waterwheel and dam power. The transition to hydropower, then estimated at approx. 32 horsepower, supplied the power that approximately 32 draft horses could not feasibly provide, on-site in Paris. Thus, increased production capacity in Noisiel enabled Menier to accommodate the expansion of the Menier drug company in Paris, while also launching the production of a non-pharmaceutical chocolate product, the first quality household chocolate bar, in 1836.

 In turn, when the Paris Menier drug company was sold to the Pharmacie Centrale de France in 1867, the Menier company consolidated the cacao production side of the business.  This coincided with the Menier purchase of cacao plantations in Nicaragua and the purchase and expansion of the old Noisiel watermill which had been used as the Menier plant. Jules Saulnier, an architect who later worked with Gustave Eiffel, was commissioned.

The Marne River watermill factory remodel (depicted in the above postcard) was integrated with what was also becoming a model labor town (familistère). Indeed, Menier also built housing, a school, a library, restaurants, a canteen, plus more in Noisiel, for its expanding workforce, called “the chocolates”. Beginning with nine workers and one foreman housed inside the old watermill factory, the Menier workforce culminated in 1914 with 2500 workers, housed in Menier residences, in Noisiel and vicinity. 

In 1914, Menier was producing almost 7 (kilo) tons of chocolate per day. By then, the Menier chocolate company, managed by four generations of Menier sons and/or brothers, was also considered an empire with factories teeming in London (UK), and New York City (USA). Menier owned the complete vertical industrial process for chocolate production, from seed to finished product, including plantations, ships for importing, a railroad company for distribution, a sugar refinery and the Noisiel cocoa manufacturing plant, together with the offices compound and residences.

Menier household chocolate wrapper
During the course of its rise, the Menier chocolate empire collected numerous accolades. The original chrome yellow wrapper for Menier household chocolate displayed copies of the front and back of the first two medals awarded to Menier: a Gold Medal of Encouragement, awarded in 1832, and a silver medal awarded at the 1834 Industrial Fair in Paris, among many more to come. The elected mayor of Noisiel was also a Menier family member up to 1959, when the Menier company factory was sold, and the Menier family left Noisiel.

In 2018, the Noisiel Menier compound which has accommodated Nestlé, France headquarters, and its 1300 employees, since 1995, is apparently on sale, since Nestlé has planned to move closer to Paris. The Saulnier-remodeled old factory watermill (le Moulin Saulnier), remains the first factory listed as a historically significant site in France. Most importantly, to date, the 200-year old Menier quality household chocolate bars, wrapped in paper that still displays the front and back of the first two medals, awarded in the 1830s, continue to hold their own, on the chocolate market in France, and elsewhere.
The Menier chocolate empire purchased technology to power its chocolate manufacturing processes, and the company patented its own inventions. In particular, Henri Emile Menier, grandson of the Menier company founder in 1816, patented two grinding machines, at the turn of the 20th century.

Each of the Menier grinding machine inventions is recited in respective patent families that include FR (France), US (United States), GB (Great Britain) and CA (Canada) patents, listed below.

Menier grinding machine patent family (cone-shaped millstones)
  • FR332855 (A) ― 1903-11-10 - Broyeur à meules coniques opposées pour le broyage intensif des matières fluides, semi-fluides ou pateuses  
  • US788113 (A) ― 1905-04-25 - Grinding-machine
  • GB190410166 (A) ― 1904-11-24 - Improvements in and relating to Grinding or Crushing Machines
  • CA87752 (A) ― 1904-06-14 - Grinding machine 
Menier grinding machine patent family (stacked concave-convex millstones)
  • FR338809 (A) ― 1904-08-04 - Broyeur pour substances de toutes natures
  • US835286 (A) ― 1906-11-06 - Grinding-machine 
  • GB190410180 (A) ― 1904-11-24 - Improvements in and relating to Grinding or Crushing Machines 
  • CA87753 (A) ― 1904-06-14 - Grinding machine

Jean-Antoine-Brutus Ménier et la Fondation de la Maison Centrale de la Droguerie
Brand history – Chocolat Menier 1816
1878 - Paris World Fair
1878 - Catalogue Officiel de l’Exposition Universelle à Paris: Liste des récompensés
Archives départementales de la Seine-et- Marne – Les Meniers, une dynastie industrielle

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Oh, patents! A discontinued treat

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

In 2005, for just 4 years, Hershey produced milk-chocolate, candy-coated Kissables®. Kissables® were candy-coated mini Kisses®. However, the trick with chocolate Kissables® was how to coat the bite-sized confections, which had a pointed teardrop shape, in such a way that the confections were evenly coated to the very tip, while retaining the same tear-drop shape throughout the coating process.  

The invention reciting the coating process for chocolate Kissables® is recited in the US patent application  US20080026131A1, titled Process for preparing a sugar coating on an irregular shaped confection.

The patent recites both the formula of two crystallizable sugar coatings and the process for applying the coatings to the confections. A process that essentially comprises spraying of the coatings onto the confections, placed into a rotating pan. The formula of the coatings includes ingredients and quantities for gumming and smoothing syrups. The description of the process includes such details as the speed in feet/minute of the rotating pans containing the  chocolate confections, the proportion of air and formula solids atomized, the size of the atomizer nozzle through which the formula solids pass, the volume in microns of the droplets sprayed onto the confections, the atomizing air pressure in psi units, the dew point temperature of the atomization, such that it will allow the ingredients to dry properly on the surface of the confection -- without melting the chocolate center! 

Otherwise, Kissables® also had a bulging base (also termed rounded or curved out, or convex), intended to prevent the coated confections from sticking together in a production defect termed “doubling”. The contoured base was produced via known techniques in the confectioner’s art, prior to the coating processes of the invention. 

Below, the abstract of the patent application is included together with the patent drawing of the Kissable® confection. An image of the marketed product is included above. 

The present invention is directed to a process for forming a hard sugar coating on an irregularly shaped chocolate confection which tapers into a pointed tip on said confection on a non-base portion thereof, which comprises forming a rounded contour on the base thereof and applying at least two coating syrups and preferably three coating syrups onto the surface of the confections under specific conditions and optionally polishing said confection. The present invention is also directed to the product formed from the process.[Abstract US20080026131A1]

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Ruby Slipper

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann                                                                                                                                                                                

The American Association of Translators (ATA) 59th Annual Meeting was held this year in New Orleans, LA, Oct. 24-27, 2018.

If you attended, this was an occasion for breakfast at one of the city’s award-winning cafés, The Ruby SlipperOctober specials include Rasberry Nutella Stuffed French Toast, Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes, and Smokey Red Eye Benedict. 

Click here for the menu, which includes more than one sort of French Toast, Benedicts, Pancakes, and Between The Bread (sandwiches).

Bon appétit! 👠

The Ruby Slipper

Sunday, October 28, 2018

National Chocolate Day!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Time to celebrate all things chocolate -- in moderation according to UCSF Metabolic health and nutrition expert, researcher, and National best-selling author, Dr. R. Lustig (2017).

Please click here for a list of sweet chocolate freebies today, in celebration of National Chocolate Day 2018:  Godiva, Valrhona, Hershey’s Lindt, Mrs Field’s…  

Lustig, R. (2017)
The Hacking of the American Mind: The Science behind the Corporate Takeover of Our Minds. New York, NY: Avery Publishing
Robert Lustig, MD
Tyko, K. (Oct 28) National Chocolate Day 2018: Where to save on sweet treats and get freebies Sunday. USA Today. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Terminology - Cocoa or Cacao?

 Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Are you wondering what the differences might be between cacao, and cocoa?

According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), cocoa is "a variant or alteration of another lexical term". In this case, the etymon is cacao, a term borrowed from Spanish, which includes additional variants such as caccao, cacoacacao, cacaa, cacaw, cocao, and caco.

End of story, according to the definitive record of the English language. You might use both cacao and cocoa interchangeably, keeping your usage consistent if your writing is a bit formal.

However, the crowd begs to differ in regards the matter of "cacao vs. cocoa". Thus, the saga unfolds, and you might end up feeling variously: vindicated, baffled, indignant, amused, unsettled, a bit more confused, or plain frustrated.

Indeed, the matter of “cacao vs. cocoa” fetches 1,817,000 Google hits, of which the top-ranked tell a unified story of difference. In other words, If you are a raw foodist then the difference might actually appear quite significant. Or, at the very least, the difference may make gisted sense.  

Here are some of the crowd’s stories of the differences between the terms “cacao vs. cocao".
 “Raw cacao is made by cold-pressing un-roasted cacao beans. The process keeps the living enzymes in the cacao and removes the fat (cacao butter). Cocoa looks the same but it's not. Cocoa powder is raw cacao that's been roasted at high temperatures.” (Food Matters®)
“Some experts use “cacao” for the pods, beans and ground-up contents of the beans, reserving “cocoa” for the powder left after pressing the fat out of the ground beans.” (Healthline®)
"Despite coming from the same plant, cacao and cocoa have numerous differences. Cacao is a pure form of chocolate that comes very close to the raw and natural state in which it is harvested. […] Cocoa has been processed with high heat." (
“Cacao and cocoa may sound similar, but both of them are unique when it comes to taste, nutrition, and cost. […] Cacao is the purest form of chocolate you can consume, which means it is raw and much less processed than cocoa powder or chocolate bars […] Cocoa is the term used to refer to the heated form of cacao that you probably grew up buying at the store in the form of powder […](
"Cocoa powder, commonly used in baking, is made by fermenting, drying, and roasting the cacao bean.   It's then pressed until all of the oils are separated out and the solids that remain are turned into a dry powder. […] Cacao powder is made in a very similar manner.[…]  However, when it's cacao powder being made, the beans are processed at very low temperatures. This is why cacao is often referred to as "raw," as the temperature used are so low it still be considered raw." (Spoon University 
To complicate matters a bit more, at least for translation purposes. French uses the single term “cacao” with no variants in sight. The term “cacao” is used in reference to the tree (cacaotier), the pods roasted or not (fèves de cacao crues ou torréfiées), beverages (poudre de cacao pour chocolat chaud),  percentages in chocolate/candy bars (% de cacao) – It’s all –cacao-related or cacao-based.

The bottom line? The OED may prevent you from going crazy with possibilities. Alternatively, you might petition for revision, and/or conduct your own investigation. 

Incidentally, does the distinction “cacao vs.cocao” exist in the languages that you speak?

OED - cocoa
OED - cacao
Raw Cocoa vs Cacao: What's the difference?
Caco vs. Cocoa: What's the difference?
Cacao vs Cocoa: What's the difference?
Cacao vs Cocoa: What you need to know
Cacao vs. Cocoa: What's the difference?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Oh, patents! Oh, chocolate!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

It is believed that cacao was introduced in Spain, and Europe, via the Conquistadores, during the 16th century. Cacao (from the cacao tree Theobroma cacao) is indigenous to equatorial America, where it was domesticated by the Aztecs, and the Maya and Toltecs before them, more than 3000 years ago. The etymology of the term “cacao” is derived from the Olmec term kakaw.  The etymology of the term “chocolate” is derived from the Nahuatl term xocoatl referring to a bitter fermented cacao bean beverage. The cacao tree was called cacahuacuchtl. Cacao beans were otherwise also used as currency and counting units.

In Europe, and the US, the processing of cacao beans into chocolate (powder, paste, butter or liquor) for nutrition  or other uses, includes a few landmark patented inventions, over the course of several centuries

In 1828, the Dutchman Coenraad Johannes Van Houten, invented the cacao press; and his son, a chemist, invented an alkalizing process. The cacao press enabled to extract the fat (cacao butter) from the ground and roasted cacao beans. The addition of an alkalizing agent to the nibs enabled to reduce the bitterness of the beans. The resulting pressed cacao cakes were then pulverized into a powder with enhanced properties of flavor and dispersion (Morse, 2015).   

In turn, milk or water could then easily be added to the processed cacao powder for everyday cooking and the manufacture of chocolate products (beverages, baked goods, desserts etc.). Van Houten’s distinctive Dutch-processed (i.e. alkalized)  cacao powder is still marketed and enjoyed to date. .A marketed box of Van Houten cacao powder is included above

Van Houten’s vertical cacao press invention was recited in a Dutch patent granted by the Dutch monarch, William I. Van Houten's vertical press is also recited in the 1916  British patent GB102009 (A)  titled Method of and Apparatus for Discharging Press Boxes in Hydraulic Presses. 

The abstract of the British C. J. Van Houten vertical chocolate press patent is included below, together with a patent drawing. The patent drawing illustrates the assembled vertical press with its swinging stack of cake drawers and central hydraulic cylinder. 
Fats and fatty oils, extracting by pressure.- Relates to means for discharging the cakes from the press-boxes of hydraulic presses used, for example, for extracting oil from cacao. The pressboxes 10 are adapted to be slid along ledges 14, on which they are supported in the pressing position above the ram 2, on to ledges 9 on side frames 5, 6. Swinging arms 27 supported on vertical spindles 20, 21 are brought beneath the press-boxes, and the spindles are raised by hydraulic devices 26 or other lifting-devices to lift the cakes from the boxes. In the press shown, the press-boxes are drawn out alternately at opposite sides, and filled boxes are drawn into the pressing position from the opposite side frames. The press-boxes may be adapted to be swung from one position to the other, instead of being slid.  [Abstract GB102009 A1]

Encyclopedia Britannica Academic – Article on chocolate
Moser, A. (2015) Alkalizing cacao and chocolate.  In The Manufacturing Confectionner, pp. 31-38
Van Houten