A peanut machine can be a commercial self-service dispenser for the sale of peanuts, or it can be equipment designed to prepare peanuts for sale in some way, usually as part of a food stand. As a dispenser, a peanut machine generally accepts some type of coin, token or money and then releases a preset amount of peanuts directly into the hands of the person using the machine. When used as part of a food stand, a peanut machine can be a combination of equipment designed to roast or flavor the peanuts so they can be sold as a snack. In some instances, a peanut machine also can be a self-serve device that uses gears to grind peanuts into peanut butter.
The most basic type of peanut machine is a peanut dispenser. This can be a tabletop unit or a freestanding model that normally has a transparent area where peanuts can be loaded and a hidden mechanism that exchanges money for peanuts. One type takes a single coin in a slot that is attached to a knob that must be turned. As the knob turns, the coin is dropped into a compartment within the machine, and the turning knob briefly opens a door to the peanut hopper, which then drops the peanuts down a chute. The person using the machine can then open a door at the bottom of the chute and retrieve the peanuts.
When used as a dispenser, a peanut machine closely resembled a gumball dispenser, except it is designed to release more than one peanut at a time. The machines can be found made of plastic, cast iron and wood. They often are mounted in storefronts, but also can be found in bars or taverns where patrons can easily drop in a coin and receive a handful of peanuts. For maintenance, the machine can be opened, normally with a key, so the change compartment can be emptied and the peanut hopper refilled.
If the peanut machine is part of a food stand or concession stand, then it might be a machine that is designed to slowly roast and salt peanuts so they can be sold. These machines sometimes have moving conveyor belts or a spinning arm that constantly keeps the peanuts moving so they do not burn. When a purchase is made, the prepared peanuts are scooped into a bag or box by someone tending the machine and handed over to the customer.