Secret Void At Bottom Of Every Cup Noodles

Renowned consumer product investigator Rob Cockerham has made another startling discovery: there is a hidden crawlspace underneath the noodles in Cup Noodles.

“This is as minor as they come,” Rob admits, “but I think enlightening nonetheless.”

Rob also says this is why they’re not called Cup OF Noodles.

“To include that one word would imply that the cup is full of noodles, not just that it contains some noodles, some air,” he writes. “Now that I’ve found the secret space, I intend to use this information. Mostly I’ll use it to surprise other Cup Noodle eaters with a hidden tea bag or a teaspoon of unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid powder. Or maybe I’ll just fill it full of barbecued pork, and smuggle some nutrition into my lunch.”

Try it out! Next crate of Ramen you get, saw one of the cups open and tell us what prizes are lurking inside the secret cache. Perhaps other hidden technology that keeps the cup from overflowing when you add water.

The Three Mysteries of Cup Noodles [Cockeyed]

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  1. Paladingo says:

    Noodles expand when they’re re-hydrated, if the entire cup was full of dry noodles they wouldn’t fit in the cup when you added water.

    • Merricat says:

      That’s what the gap at the top is for, unless you think the noodles are so tightly packed that the ones a the bottom can’t push up…

      • amhorach says:

        Paladingo beat me to it by a bit, so I’ll reply to his thread instead of mine.

        It’s a perception thing. They need x space for the noodles to expand into, and if they kept all of that on top, it’d look like the cup was less full. By putting the noodles over some of that space, they create the illusion of more product in the cup.

        • dgingras says:

          Are you so sure that the density of a wet noodle gives it a volume equivalent to volume of dry noodle plus the volume of the pure water it absorbs? The mass in the system of ramen is constant (ignore the steam), but the if the density varies, therefore the volume would vary too.

          I could be wrong.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            I am rather confident that the density of a cooked noodle is significantly smaller than the density of water – hence, you need room in the cup.

            Non-story here.

      • Brunette Bookworm says:

        Maybe it helps to rehydrate them by letting the water flow to the bottom easier?

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      And they’re probably moist when they go in the cup. As they dry, they contract, but retain the shape of the container.

      • Sandstar says:

        No, they’re fried in that shape. If they were moist, they’d go bad.

        • TouchMyMonkey says:

          They’re freeze-dried. That’s how the whole thing kind of shrinks like that. Frying a lump of noodles that have been pre-shaped like a truncated cone just the right size to fit would be prohibitively expensive. They go in the cup, fully cooked, then they get sent via conveyor to a flash freezer. That’s the best guess I’ve got.

          • cockerham says:

            Wet paste is extruded through a perferated screen, into a conic cup which is full of boiling peanut oil. They become hard fried noodles as they are squeezed into the cup.

    • CapitalC says:

      When I add water to them now they still don’t fill the cup… :(

    • dorianh49 says:

      I make my own water at home. /old

    • dangermike says:

      think about that one for a second…

      The extra volume of the noodles comes from where? The water. So the volume of water decreases as much as the volume of the noodles increases. It’s like the old bar bet of whether or a topped off glass of ice water will overflow as the ice melts.

      • dgingras says:

        You are misrepresenting that bar bet. It works because ice is less dense than water. When the ice melts, it becomes more dense, having less volume, lowering the water level. If ice was denser than water, not only would it sink to the bottom of the cup, but it would cause the water to overflow when it melted.

        • dangermike says:

          perhaps… or perhaps I’m leaving wiggle room in case someone happens to have some proper evidence showing that some weird entropic effect of of interspersing the water closes to the starch chains actually does increase the volume more than the sum to the two “pure” constituents.

          In either case, however, the difference in volume between the states will be so minor as to be negligible.

          • stopNgoBeau says:

            Not so. Try it with rice. Fill up a pot with rice, then add water. Even if it doesn’t overflow when you add the water, look what happens when you heat it. The rice will go everywhere. Same principle with the noodles.

    • Damocles57 says:

      I believe Paladingo is right in one regard:

      If the cup were totally full of dry noodles, you couldn’t add enough water to rehydrate them. The amount of water necessary to rehydrate a full cup of dry noodles would overflow the cup. There has to be a balance between the right amount of dry noodles compared to the right amount of water necessary to rehydrate them.

  2. cockerham says:

    No matter how many dry noodles were in the cup, they would still fit in the cup when reconstituted with water.

    • dabarak says:

      Precisely! Four ounces of noodles plus four ounces of water (or whatever quantities) equals eight ounces regardless of how it’s distributed. The noodles swell up, but some of the water “disappears.”

      • theart says:

        Right, but if the cup was completely filled with cooked noodles it would be impossible to eat them without spilling. There has to be some space to get a fork in and get noodles out. They just elected to leave that space at the bottom rather than the top.

        • bwcbwc says:

          Or conversely if the cup is full of noodles, you can’t put enough water into the cup to reconstitute them properly so you end up with dry, chewy noodles.

  3. amhorach says:

    It’s probably there to give space for the noodles to expand into without overflowing the cup /and/ keep the package looking like there are a lot of noodles in it without having an even bigger void at the top of the cup.

    • Harrkev says:

      Actually, I think that the space is where they add the powered flavorings. IIRC, the stack-up goes something like this (from top to bottom):

      * Visible bits (dehydrated vegetables, tiny dried shrimp, etc.)

      * Noodles (same for all flavors)

      * A tablespoon of salt with beef/chicken flavor

    • bdcw says:

      You’re both wrong. That’s where the Ramen hide … after all, what’s a cup-o-noodles without a few fresh Ramen?

  4. superfluousK says:

    We need someone to saw open an old Cup Noodle to see if this area previously contained noodles.

  5. pantheonoutcast says:

    You can put your weed in there…

    • FatLynn says:

      HAHAHAHAHAHA…thanks for that.

    • JoeDawson says:

      Besides the re-sealing issue at security screenings…. i hollowed out a broken VW key (the kind that locks and unlocks doors, switchblade style) and put my weed there…

    • The Marionette says:

      keep mine in an empty salt/pepper shaker in my room.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Is it just me or has the shrink ray hit that particular cup of noodles? When I was younger, I remember the top of the noodles much closer to the line on the inside of the styrofoam cup – you know, the line to where you fill the water.

    • Damocles57 says:

      When I was younger, my elementary school was bigger and my bedroom was bigger and I could barely get on the toilet seat by myself.

      I think the whole world has been hit by a shrink ray!

  7. coconutmellie says:

    Sorry. With my budget these days, I don’t have the luxury of cutting open perfectly good packages of noodles just to find some asinine space at the bottom.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You could just take the noodles out and put them into a bowl. Add water, cover the top…same thing.

      • coconutmellie says:

        Pecan – I definitely wouldn’t do this because if I had Cup O Noodles in my pantry, that meant that I purchased the more expensive packaging in order to buy some convenience. This would make them even more valuable and less like to be subjective to wasteful space interrogations.

        Sure, the food has not gone to complete waste entirely by being sawed in half, but why would I waste a perfectly good cup? And my time? And any brainpower?

        • NarcolepticGirl says:

          man. what a downer.

          • BuddyL says:

            HAHAHA!!!! You both make valid points, but the strongest I see is that fact that one DOES have to pay an extra few cents for the convenience of the cup.
            That being said, it is stil a very inexpensive ‘meal’ in itself and tearing one open ‘just to see’ would be an acceptable personal mythbuster.
            Damn – now I gotta go get one and cut it open!!!!! DAMN YOU PEOPLE!!!! LOL!

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I forgot to add that if you were really on a budget, that’s what you’d be doing anyway. The packs of noodles are cheaper than these portable styrofoam cups.

  8. WontEndWell says:

    I believe that not only, like it has been said, the space is for use of expansion of the noodles, but for the amount of water needed to cook the noodles per directions. You fill it up to the fill line and nuke it for a few minutes then let stand for a few. So I believe this is just a case of trying to make the product not look like it’s ripping you off while still making the container large enough to fit the noodles in with the correct amount of water.

  9. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    I’ve known about this for ages. I routinely would peel the styrofoam away from the noodle cake, and have two “cups” of noodles at once in a large soup mug, along with some extra mixed veggies. The gap never really bothered me, like most people I figured it was to help with the ratio of water to noodles.

    • tbone13 says:

      agreed. it’s been like this for decades.

      what’s really good is cracking an egg in the bottom, put in some spicy chili flakes or hot sauce, put the noodles back in, and the pour scalding hot water in.

      the eggs slightly runny, but it’s damn good.

  10. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Since I used to like to snack on dry ramen noodles out of the cup when I was a kid, I’ve known about this for 30 years.

    My father, a mechanical engineer, said if the noodles went all the way to the bottom of the cup, you’d wind up with a compressed, half-reconstituted, inedible glop at the bottom from the noodles expanding above it. This way it gets reconstituted evenly. I don’t know if he’s right but it’s certainly plausible!

    I agree, the noodles fill the whole cup when you prepare it, so biggie fricking deal, Cockerham, you wanker.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You too? I used to love the dry noodles.

    • cockerham says:

      I think your dad is incorrect.

      I predict that a full cup of dried noodles would reconstitute beautifully. They would still fit in the cup, because the water they absorb is water which already fits in the cup. Also a staggering six ounces of noodles wouldn’t crush the noodles on the bottom into a paste. Can you imagine a plate of spaghetti so vast that the bottom noodles are crushed?

      Luckily, testing Cup Noodles is easy and very cheap, so we don’t really have to spend too much energy proposing theories.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        No, no. It isn’t the weight of the noodles pushing the bottom noodles down. It’s the force of expansion. Thought experiment time: Say you had one of those little blow-up balloons, and you fastened it to the end of an air hose. If you stuck it all the way to the bottom of a styrofoam cup and inflated it, the pressure from the other end of the expanding balloon would blow out the bottom of the cup. But if you positioned the balloon up in the cup so it was some distance from the bottom, the end of the balloon would have somewhere to go.

        Also, being a chef, I appreciate that the design allows the boiling water to flow around the noodles from all sides. I dislike other “cup meals” because they always leave glop on the bottom no matter how much you think you stirred.

        Really, I know we are on Consumerist, and I love to jump on scams with both feet as much as the next sarcastic bastard, but this is not a scam, it’s a feature.

        • phonebem says:

          Sounds like a job for Mythbusters!!

        • cockerham says:

          You are suggesting that without this air-gap “feature”, the force of EXPANDING NOODLES could burst through the bottom of the cup?

          • Brunette Bookworm says:

            I would figure that it’s harder for the noodles at the bottom to push the others UP and this is to allow hot water to flow all around the noodles and for them to expand up and down.

          • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

            It’s only necessary for them to get clumped and compressed and squeeze out the water that’s trying to rehydrate them for them to be a nasty mess.

        • nakkypoo says:

          Your dad is right. Nissan even explains this on their site. The noodles get progressively less dense as you go down, so that they reconstitute evenly. Nissan may even have patented this at one point.

  11. failurate says:

    Are the noodles cut from a block/slab of dried noodles? The cup is partially conical, a disk of noodles that is bigger than the bottom but smaller than the top won’t slide all the way to the bottom.

    That and it makes it look like you get more noodles while still giving the noodles enough room to expand as they cook.

  12. annodyne says:

    Or is it secret east Asian smuggling space? Perhaps this is how those mysterioius illegal Asian air molecules are being sneaked in. Or are they mysterious illegal Voorhees, NJ air molecules?

  13. annodyne says:

    Or is it secret east Asian smuggling space? Perhaps this is how those mysterioius illegal Asian air molecules are being sneaked in. Or are they mysterious illegal Voorhees, NJ air molecules?

    • annodyne says:

      Honestly, I didn’t do this. It was all the computer’s fault. Really.
      There has got to be a way to delete these double posts.

  14. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    “Now that I’ve found the secret space, I intend to use this information. Mostly I’ll use it to surprise other Cup Noodle eaters with a hidden tea bag or a teaspoon of unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid powder. Or maybe I’ll just fill it full of barbecued pork, and smuggle some nutrition into my lunch.”

    I love this man.

  15. Consumer David says:

    Come on people, we’ve gone through this before! “Product is sold by weight, not by volume.”

  16. shepd says:

    If the noodles were placed from the bottom up, many people wouldn’t fill the cup with enough water and the product wouldn’t taste nice. Many people ignore the fill line and instead fill to the top of the noodles.

    • RickN says:

      If someone’s not bright enough to put water in a cup correctly, they deserve skanky-ass noodles.

    • DeadWriter says:

      That makes sence. Also, once properly made it truly is a cup of noodles and broth.

  17. TIJAG says:

    This is another in a long line of completely pointless Consumerist.com posts.

    • DJBS77 says:

      Exactly. Now if the weight of the dry noodles did not equal the advertised amount on the container, then we would have something to discuss.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      I’m so sorry that your computer forces you to read each and every post here! That must be such a hard life to lead.

    • coren says:

      No, what you meant to type was “This is another in a long line of completely pointless Consumerist.com comments.”

    • failurate says:

      It’s not all business all the time, there is an curious and entertaining factor to this website. Consumerist is sort of the mullet of consumer/business blogging.

  18. indiecognition says:

    If you squeeze down with a finger on an unopened cup in the middle, it’ll be firm because that’s where the noodles are…squeeze close to the bottom, and there’s more give because it’s air. No secret, and no need to saw your noodles in half to find the truth.

  19. EBE says:

    Mr. Cockerham has a little too much time on his hands.

  20. coren says:

    If his logic on the naming is accurate (an unfull cup necessitates a different name) then it certainly wouldn’t be that pocket that caused it. Anyone who’s had these knows full well they don’t fill all the way to the top.

    Not that i think his logic is sound. Of doesn’t mean full of (nevermind the recursive properties that would have). The Straight of Gibraltar isn’t full of Gibraltar. Hell, cup of could be referring to volume, as in “there is a cup’s worth of noodles in this box”

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      The naming has nothing to do with it. They were called “Cup O’ Noodles” for many years, all the while with the space in the bottom of the cup just as shown here.

    • nybiker says:

      Besides his logic theory, what is Gibraltar and is it straight or crooked or Strait of Gibraltar?

  21. SaltWater says:

    OMG, begin a congressional investigation and class action lawsuits!

  22. whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

    Goods sold by weight, my friend.

    Also, noodles expand.

  23. epor says:

    I remember taking apart a Cup Noodle once when I was a kid (about 20+ years ago) and the same space was there. I did remember thinking it was odd. back then too but figured it was just part of how they made it. I guess no one else noticed this till now?

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      30 years ago, when I first noticed it, I was ten. I hadn’t yet been conditioned to regard everything as a scam.

  24. teke367 says:

    Its not really a lie though, since the box says net weight of 2.5 ounces, its measured in weight, not volume.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      The shrink ray really did hit them, then. They were 3 ounces originally.

  25. goldilockz says:

    Thanks for investigating my 50 cents noodle cup there, Rob Cockerman.

  26. WickedCrispy says:

    On the label: “Some settling of contents… wait… nevermind.”

  27. aquanetta says:

    My belief is that the gap in the bottom serves two purposes:

    1) allow enough hot water to surround the noodles during incubation; otherwise, the noodles on the top, having more heatmass nearby, will rehydrate completely, while the noodles on the bottom would still be underhydrated

    2) Give the perfect broth to noodle ratio after the noodles have rehydrated and expanded, the lack of broth is a very common problem in packaged ramens.

    • cockerham says:

      I can’t believe this. You would really rather have more BROTH than a full cup of NOODLES?

  28. greeneyedguru says:

    fairly sure these are sold by weight and not volume.

    it’s the old ‘air in the top of the potato chips bag’ complaint, recycled. guess that’s why I don’t come here anymore unless I’m REALLY bored.

    • Damocles57 says:

      So you were really bored now?

      Does the boredom rule apply to reading the articles or to reading and commenting?

  29. PeaInAPod says:

    I can’t believe this is news. Anyone who’s eaten one of these things should be able to just know it isn’t filled to the bottom with noodles because 1)when it comes out of the microwave cooked you can see how much “cup space” the noodles actually took up and 2) these thing are like 20 cents did you really expect more?

  30. Damocles57 says:

    I think the OP is worried (confused) about the quantity of dry noodles instead of the ratio of noodles to water in the fully reconstituted soup. It is soup, afterall, not “Cup of Solid Noodles”.

    Open any can of ready to eat soup, drain off the water, let the solids dry out, and see what you have left. Not a lot of solids to compared to water.

    This issue is not so much a deception to the consumer but rather someone who is learning how the real world works and is trying to fit it into his misconception of how many dry noodles should fill his styrofoam cup before he fills it with hot water.

  31. stringcheese says:

    For some reason, this story made me think of Anne Frank.

  32. iParadox{InLove} says:

    “Mostly I’ll use it to surprise other Cup Noodle eaters with a hidden tea bag…”

    *sighs and puts on his stripper outfit*

    Tea Bag’ll cost ya $5.

    Anything after that has to be talked out with my boss.

  33. The Dord says:

    What a very interesting post Ben! I’d never think of cutting a cup of ramen in half to do that. Do you like ramen noodles?

  34. Galium says:

    I am not sure, but I would suppose that the noodles are dry when put into the cup. Therefore the factory would have to have a certain size, dollop, of noodles to fit the cup. To fit and go to the bottom the noodles would be narrow and leave space on the sides. There is no intent to sham customers; it is how it is packaged. Like air in potato chip bags. The noodle pile because the size is the one preferred to fit in the cup. When you add water the cup would be full top to bottom. Actually if the cup was completely full of noodles, when you added water you would need a medium size saucepan to hold it all. Many items like this have logical reasons for being like they are. We sometimes may be to quick to find fault, without at least thinking about why the product/service etc may be the way they it is.

  35. moofie says:

    Shipping damage.

    Pro tip: Your bag of potato chips is also not full of potato chips.

  36. fuceefacee says:

    “This is as minor as they come,” Rob admits, “but I think enlightening nonetheless.”

    Sorry Rob but it’s sooooo…. minor (actually less than minor) it doesn’t qualify as enlightening. Should we an executive email carpet bomb? This sort of EXPOSE makes The Consumerist look simply petty.

    • cockerham says:

      If there were a false bottom on your KFC bucket, allowing only 2/3rds of the chicken you expected, would that be worthy of an article?

      Do you think people would be writing in saying “oh, that false bottom is there to keep the chicken insulated and hot!” and “That false bottom is vital to the for structural integrity of the bucket!”

      Or do you think they would complain that they are being tricked and therefore cheated?

      • fuceefacee says:

        Fast food chicken is sold by the piece not by weight or volume. If I bought a 12 piece bucket that had only 11 pieces, I would feel cheated. I do hope there would be some air at the bottom of the bucket to allow ventilation of the chicken pieces. I hope this straightens out your obvious confusion in grasping what the article is about.

  37. Ben says:

    “Barbecued pork” is nutritious?

  38. lifestar says:

    Am I the only one who actually opened these up for the purpose of cooking the noodles in a pot or something better than the default container? I saw this empty space a long time ago and it’s more for the noodles expansion than anything else. Every time you reconstitute dried items, they expand, not a big deal.

  39. econobiker says:

    I noticed that a recent case of these I bought at Costco has the peas, carrots, and some corn in the void versus on top.

  40. FnordX says:

    Jason Grigsby did an Ignite presentation about Cup Noodles about two years ago. He explains why there’s a void there. It’s basically to allow the noodles to cook correctly, otherwise the noodles wouldn’t cook completely in 3 minutes. If you’re interested, you can find the video here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h65O54MZMp8

    The presentation itself is only about 5 minutes long, if you skip the stuff at the start.