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Jelly Bean Sorting Machine

Get the assortment YOU want
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I have in front of me a four pound container of Jelly Bellies, purchased—naturally—at Costco. Now, that brand of sweetmeat is widely (I daresay perhaps even universally) agreed to be delicious. Unfortunately, however, this particular mix contains no fewer than 49 discrete flavors, and a few of these are absolutely wretched. The cinnamon and licorice beans might be fine on their own, but they easily overpower any other flavors they happen to be eaten with. And nothing can take the pleasure out of a handful of beans quite like the nauseating taste of the loathsome "Buttered Popcorn" bean.

In an attempt to alleviate this problem that has long vexed even the most gung-ho candy aficionados, I propose a device that can be programmed to sort jelly beans according to one's preferences. It consists of a hopper to hold the beans, which then feed one at a time into an analysis chamber, where each bean is optically measured to determine its flavor. Once that is determined, the bean is either pushed down the "accept" or "reject" chutes accordingly. Programming the device consists of putting it into either accept or reject mode, then loading a sample of each type of bean into the hopper as appropriate. Multiple programs can be stored in case you want to sub-sort the beans further, or in case different people want to use the device.

After sorting out the beans, you can place the good ones back into the container, and simply toss the awful ones out. Or give them to your spouse, who, stupefying though it may be, actually purports to enjoy the taste of "Melted Tire" or "Rancid Roadkill" (either of which would be a vastly more accurate description than "Toasted Marshmallow").

ytk, May 06 2011

Quality Street Centrifuge Quality_20Street_20Centrifuge
Maybe you could reuse some of the R&D that went into this design. [Wrongfellow, May 06 2011]

Recipes for taste combination satisfaction http://www.jellybel...y_bean_recipes.aspx
[RayfordSteele, May 06 2011]

[link]






       Seems like there's a candy store in the mall that sells by the pound every flavor separated. Just mix and match.
RayfordSteele, May 06 2011
  

       A clever fellow could perform some taste tests, and program the machine to dispense the right number and combination to produce a meta flavor, a handful that combined taste like a turkey sandwich on whole wheat, or a strawberry margarita.
tatterdemalion, May 06 2011
  

       A clever fellow did. See Jelly Belly's link...
RayfordSteele, May 06 2011
  

       No turkey sandwich but that's pretty awesome, thanks.
tatterdemalion, May 06 2011
  

       / optically measured to determine its flavor / seemingly makes no sense. Do you mean determine its color? (Then one would have to trust the color <-> flavor reference standards (are these things published?). Or do you mean a high-powered laser would ablate a small portion of the bean into the air which would be sucked into a gas chromatography instrument for composition analysis?
sqeaketh the wheel, May 06 2011
  

       Could a scanning electron microscope image the molecules of the surface, and use optical recognition to identify aromatic compounds?
pocmloc, May 06 2011
  

       This relates in no very certain way to the worrying issue of flavour distributions in tubes of Rowntree's fruit gums, and the fact that there always seem to be more red ones than any other flavour.
8th of 7, May 06 2011
  

       There would be riots.   

       What a good idea. Post it (if you can write round the 'flavours' prohibition).
8th of 7, May 06 2011
  

       //Do you mean determine its color? (Then one would have to trust the color <-> flavor reference standards (are these things published?).//   

       Correct. The flavor correlates directly with the color and pattern of the bean.   

       This container—as I believe is the case with most Jelly Belly packages—does indeed have a list the flavors contained therein, along with a picture of each type of bean. But since the device could record the optical pattern of each bean in the programming phase, it would be unnecessary to rely on any such tables.
ytk, May 06 2011
  

       //Seems like there's a candy store in the mall that sells by the pound every flavor separated. Just mix and match.//   

       Indeed, but it's considerably more expensive to do so, and these stores often don't have as many flavors available individually as can be found in an assortment.
ytk, May 06 2011
  

       Might as well get someone to swing that four pound bucket of sugar directly into one of your kidneys.
rcarty, May 06 2011
  

       The assortment at Costco runs about $19 for four pounds, whereas you'd be hard pressed to find individual flavors of Jelly Bellies at a price less than $8/lb (at least according to a cursory Google search, which agrees with my general recollection). You could discard nearly half the beans from the assortment, and still come out ahead this way. If wastefulness is the concern, and you don't happen to have a spouse lacking taste buds, then perhaps you could use them for some sort of art project or something.   

       Granted, you'd have to eat an awful lot of Jelly Bellies to recoup the cost of the sorting machine, but that's a problem for marketing, not R&D.
ytk, May 07 2011
  

       A Coulter counter for jelly beans [+]. The beans would be in free-fall from the time they left the hopper till the time a puff of gas nudged them into a collection chute. Most of this could be visible inside a transparent enclosure. Would be mesmerizing to watch. Or, for those less easily mesmerized, it could be the basis for a gambling game.
mouseposture, May 07 2011
  

       I do not know what a 'Jelly Belly' is. I don't know why one may require more than a pound of them.
I DO know what a "sweetmeat" is and do NOT want to indulge- not even an ounce. Thank you.
Google is your friend.
Where is Jinbish when you kneed him?
gnomethang, May 07 2011
  

       My roadies already do this for me.
AbsintheWithoutLeave, May 07 2011
  

       Do they also peel grapes?
mouseposture, May 08 2011
  

       Just so long as its sweetmeats and not sweetbreads.   

       A jellybean that tastes like calf pancreas is probably not going to be much of a hit. Nor those flavoured to resemble parotid glands, sublingual glands and testicles of cattle, sheep and pigs.
infidel, May 09 2011
  
      
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