Tomorrow's Popcorn Butter Dispenser

[O]n the first thanksgiving the colonists said to the Indians MAKE DESSERT. The native Americans then went like "let's cover corn kernels with butter and cook it till it pops! Yay!" then the colonists tried it and were like "what's this stuff?!?!?!?!" and the natives said "it's popped-corn" which turned into popcorn.
(answers.com)

Popcorn - it’s everywhere, and it just keeps getting worse. It always seems to cost more than it used to. You don't get a free refill except on the jumbo size. First no one is passing the bag and then of course when the movie is almost over you end up holding it. Your coworker made some in the microwave and now the whole place smells like popcorn. Dentists are saying we should stop eating it completely. And of course there is popcorn lung. And where is the butter?

Here is the problem: We don't want too much or too little butter- we want a reasonable amount, and we want it distributed evenly. Existing butter pumps don't work for this and the typical result is a big glob of butter on the top and dry kernels underneath.

The way things used to be

My senior year of high school the theater moved the pump to the self-serve area next to the pop machines. I was a dumpster-diving, vegan punk, most of the theater staff were friends of mine, and they offered free refills on all sizes: I would grab a used bucket out of the trash (these were quality, rigid cardboard vessels like fried chicken comes in, able last all day) and spend the day watching movies and annoying my friends. I got access to a sack of butter oil in back to scan for obvious animal products- all chemicals, plausible deniability. No better way to spend an afternoon.

None of the conditions that made this popcorn so great (buckets, refills, public butter) are still in place. Moreover I am not so sure the unlimited butter tap meant consistently better outcomes. I was 17 and could eat like a goat.

Austerity goes to the movies

The easiest way to avoid this issue was to fill the popcorn only half way, pump a little bit of hot butter onto it while shaking the container, and then repeating once full. In the year 2019 popcorn comes in flimsy paper bags which cannot be shaken, and workers are too rushed and stressed to be going back and forth between the pump and the popcorn box. It used to be standard practice, but such a request today makes you sound like a jerk.

A new nozzle

This is a design for a new, injector-style butter nozzle. Instead of working like a spigot, pumping and dumping the oil on only the top layer of popcorn, the dispenser becomes an eight-to-ten-inch aerosolizing needle, only a few millimeters in diameter. Up and down this needle are thousands or millions of extremely tiny holes, each one barely larger in diameter than a single butter particle. When the user activates the pump, rather than a drip, every surface within a 4-inch horizontal radius is immediately enveloped in a butter mist, providing the ideal coating for every kernel.

Someone should develop this butter mister, and when we can see movies again1, every theater should be retrofitted with it. Please note that I thought of this invention first: It's my idea2, but I am donating it for the public good. There shall be no profiteering or gouging on the production and installation of this hardware, and any worker involved in manufacturing and installation will be automatically declared co-owner of their firm, and the idea.

Below you can see a mockup of the implementation:

screen shot 2019 10 09 at 8 21 23 am


  1. I began this essay long before the present COVID-19 pandemic started, so while it feels petty to post it now I did feel like I needed to get it out of drafts.
  2. Open Sourced under the Hippocratic License
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