July 4, 2005
Hot Hot Hot

Paging George Jetson, paging George Jetson, your latte has arrived.

We still don't have flying cars, but we do now have self heating beverages. While at the store yesterday, I came across WolfGang Puck's gourmet rich espresso latte in a self-heating can.

No, I haven't taken leave of my senses. The beverage comes in a double walled can that contains an inner beverage along with an outer "puck" of quicklime (calcium oxide or CaO) and a layer of water. To heat the beverage, one turns the can upside down, pulls a protective lid off, pushes a plastic button in (releasing the quicklime into the water), then turns the can back over to wait for it to heat.

The calcium oxide reacts with the water to form Calcium Hydroxide [Ca(OH)2], releasing a lot of heat in the process, which warms your beverage to up to 140 F.

The can technology is from a San Diego company called OnTech. You can see a slideshow on the technology on their site.

It's not the first self-heating can by far. The first self-heating cans actually used cordite to provide the heat as far back as 1939. The calcium oxide method came a little later. One can imagine the dangers in putting even small amounts of cordite into the hands of consumers (look at all that soup he's buying - he must be a terrorist!)

So how effective is the technology? I followed the instructions and in minutes was enjoying a hot beverage. I thought the latte itself was too sweet by far, but that's not the fault of the can. One problem with the can is awfully heavy. Because it has that water layer, the can feels full even after it's empty. Also the "protective plastic lid", which is required to prevent you from burning yourslef on the metal top of the can, is somewhat cumbersome and "thick" feeling.

Frankly, at $3.39/can, you might as well go to your local coffee shop if you're in the city and get a much larger (and lighter) beverage. Or you could invest in a thermos and take your coffee with you if you were ambitious.

Still, it's a neat trick for when you happen to be in the middle of the woods and didn't mind hiking heavy cans of coffee in. I'd be more interested to see soups like this. The potential problem with using this OnTech can for soup purpose is that any "chunky bits" in the soup would get stuck in the pop-top lid. I'm sure someone will work out the problem for soup as OnTech has for beverages.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at July 4, 2005 8:12 AM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

I've seen similar affairs with ready-made meals in them here in France at gas stations, though they must have used a different technology as the one I tried never really got that hot. The real problem I have with them, though, is that they must be an environmentalist's nightmare: all that extra packaging and then the chemicals.

Welcome back, by the way!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 4, 2005 at 10:28 AM

The chemicals shouldn't be so bad - limestone and water are no real threat to the environment. The extra packaging is a problem.

This package is effective, but I just don't see it catching on at the price it costs right now. I suspect lattes were the first target since people are used to paying way too much for coffee anyway.

Posted by barrett on July 4, 2005 at 10:36 AM

All that packaging, for what, a cup of coffee?

Posted by chef 'em out on July 4, 2005 at 11:19 AM

No no no, all that packaging is not just for coffee . All that packaging is for the advancement of SCIENCE!

And for $3.39, of course

Posted by barrett on July 4, 2005 at 7:17 PM

Now it would be really cool if we could add our own beverages / soups to a can like that ... though I guess you're right that a thermos does pretty much the same thing.

Posted by jen on July 5, 2005 at 3:53 PM

I remember seeing those cans in Osaka, Japan in the dispensers on every street corner. The one machine would despense both cold items and hot sake, etc.

Posted by Meg's MOM on July 6, 2005 at 2:06 PM

I know I have come across this relatively late, but here is some recent information:

Ontech: http://www.ontech.com

The beverage I am currently drinking: http://www.hillsidebeverages.com/new/index.html

A quote about quicklime from a patent:

"Further, the used container, after the quick lime is converted to slaked lime by release of the reaction heat, may be discarded as it is, which would not cause environmental pollution or any other problem. Besides, the slaked lime can be utilized as a fertilizer for plants."

I for one enjoy the drink. I volunteer at a school as the PTO President. Many times I am in the office during the day. I bought some of the coffees and hot chocolate when they were on sale. Everyone that has come into my office and tried one has enjoyed it. It is handy for me because I am not a coffee drinker but I might have some one come to a meeting who is. This way I don't have to make a full pot of coffee for one or two cups.

Posted by doerayme on April 8, 2008 at 12:01 PM
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