Is Robot Butter Better Butter?

Humans have been making butter for thousands of years. If you have a cooperative cow or sheep and a means to agitate her milk, butter is not far behind. So why would you employ a $15,000 industrial robot to make butter? Because – robot butter!

Actually, Robutter is a design experiment by [Stephan], [Philipp], and [Jonas] to explore where craft ends and industrial processes begin, and to see how automation adds or removes values from traditional products. It’s a fair question, given that butter can be churned with everything from animal skins to massive continuous churns. So the team programmed [DIRK], a Fanuc LR Mate 200ic which is normally more at home on an assembly line, to carefully agitate a container of cream. After a bit of fiddling they found the optimal position and movements to produce a delicate butter that looks pretty tasty. The video after the break shows the process and the results, but sadly there’s no taste test of the Robutter against grocery store butter.

It may come as a surprise that Hackaday appears never to have featured a butter making project before. Sure, we’ve got a lot of food hacks, most of which seem to involve beer or coffee. But we did run across a recent article on a buttermilk pancake-making robot that you might like to check out.

27 thoughts on “Is Robot Butter Better Butter?

  1. I made butter for the first time last month. It was a “wow, I didn’t know I could actually do that” experience. But I won’t do it again. I found out that average grocery store cream makes average grocery store butter. Slightly different color and cold consistency, no difference in taste.

    Now if I had access to *really* fresh cream, then I probably would have been very impressed. Like the person I was chatting with on Facebook who’d encouraged me to try it. She said it was the best ever. Of course, she has her own dairy cows from which she obtained the cream!

    So I think it’s almost entirely dependent on the starting ingredients, not who or what churned it. If it is actually a better butter, it’s only because they used great cream, and/or because they herbed it.

    1. Definitely agree here. I like making my own “real vanilla ice cream” – getting real milk (not the chemical stuff you get at the market), getting real vanilla pod, fresh eggs … and taking the time to make it … comes out at about 10 times the price of the best vanilla ice I could buy at a store.
      Sure, it’s fun. Sure, it tastes actually better than the best industry product I have tried so far. But is it worth it? Just for really good friends, I guess.

      I am a fan of the movement “don’t diss industry food – demand BETTER industry food”. If that takes a cream shaking robot hand, so be it!

    2. One of the big issues is that consumers in the U.S. have no access to any dairy products that have not been pasteurized (with the possible exception of aged cheeses). Now, in just about every other context, pasteurization is a good thing, but it does alter the milk. If you actually go out to a dairy farm and get raw milk, it’s very different. Heck, it’s different simply because it’s not homogenized either, which is something hard to come by as an ordinary consumer (but at least it’s not a legal requirement).

    3. Agreed. I make butter a couple of times a year as a novelty to take to a pot luck or other dinner gatherings. For some reason people get a kick out of “homemade” butter. It doesn’t taste any better than store bought imo and it’s a lot of time and mess. I use a food processor with a dough paddle and use carrots to add the yellow color.

      1. Yeah, my dad grew up on a farm during the Depression.
        He said when the cows switched from green grass in the summer to hay in the winter, the butter lost its color.
        (And in his mind it also lost the flavor, maybe it did) but Grandma would buy a small bottle of orange coloring (sold specifically for butter?). And the butter was better! B^)

  2. I’m not really sure the world now knows any more about the important subject of where ‘craft’ ‘ends’ and ‘industrial processes’ ‘begin’, and I am sure someone might question your use of the word ‘optimal’ in something as wooly as this.

    But as a bit of PR fluff, it’s fun. I’d eat it.

    1. Depends on who you ask, and when. Doesn’t seem to be any conclusive consensus, and in the absence of that, I use whatever tastes good.

      And I pay attention what my body tells me. Ok, maybe my arteries are clogging and I just don’t know it. But I do know that anything deep fried in oil billed as “healthy” often gives me immediate feedback, in the form of TERRIBLE heartburn. Fried in plain cheap veggie oil, or even Crisco or lard, no problem. And no problem with any amount of butter either. I’m curious if anyone else is similarly affected.

      1. Allergies are a modern ailment and is affecting all of us (and even our pets). We all have to discover what makes us feel bad and then avoid it.
        It is perhaps better to not ask what causes that phenomena, certain people won’t like it when you do and you won’t be able to chance things anytime soon anyway.

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