Meet the Adaptics Drop, a $100 iPad-integrated kitchen scale that debuted at San Francisco's Launch Festival earlier in 2014 and is also available in the UK for £79. When I first heard about Drop, I was ambivalent. Sure, I like apps and products with smart features, but do I really need that much help measuring ingredients?
Turns out my baking technique has some significant flaws. Like many Americans, I tend to forsake the accuracy of scales for the more free-form cup-and-tablespoon approach. That's OK for some things, but it's potentially problematic for baking, where precision is key.
So, the Bluetooth 4.0-enabled Drop helps folks like me zero in on that previously elusive precision by providing instructions from start to finish, complete with visual representations of ingredients so you know when to stop pouring and beautiful pictures of completed recipes. I highly recommend Drop if you're looking to add some smart-home functionality to your baking routine.
If you don't already use a scale, Drop promises a new level of accuracy. And even if you do, Drop offers special features that improve the baking process even more. Add an ingredient to the scale and the app status bar will let you know when to stop. That means that you don't even have to be paying attention to exact measurements, because the connected app takes care of everything for you.
But, that's just the start.
Say you want to make cookies, but the amount of flour in your pantry doesn't match the recipe. With Drop, you can weigh the flour you have and the app will recalculate the other ingredients to offer a custom recipe. You might end up with 19 chocolate chip cookies instead of two dozen, but who cares? Immediate gratification wins when it comes to sweets.
Drop also offers clever workarounds. If you're missing an ingredient, Drop will suggest suitable substitutes so you can continue baking and avoid a last-minute trip to the store. The app also assists long after you've weighed that flour and sugar. It will tell you to preheat your oven and even act as a cooking timer. And when your 19 cookies are done baking, you can take photos and share them on your social media platform of choice -- all from the Drop app.
This smart scale is compatible with the iPad 3 and higher and all versions of the iPad Air and iPad Mini. Unlike the $70 Pure Imagination Perfect Bake scale I recently reviewed (about £45 at the current exchange rate), Drop works via Bluetooth 4.0 and doesn't need to be tethered to your iPad's microphone port.
Also, I prefer the upscale look of Drop's scale and app to more the utilitarian Perfect Bake. The Drop app, in particular, is downright gorgeous -- something that looks like it came off the pages of Pinterest that I'd gladly share with a fellow baking fan -- while the Perfect Bake app feels decidedly less design-focused.
But Perfect Bake has a clear edge over Drop in terms of its add-your-own-recipe and edit-an-existing-recipe options. Drop says it will be adding this sort of functionality at a later date, however.
The Perfect Bake is also more of a kit -- you get a scale, three mixing bowls, an oven thermometer and a stand for your iPad -- for less money. None of the elements feel high-end, but they are functional and make for a more comprehensive baking experience; I'm even using the device stand that came with the Perfect Bake kit to test Drop.
Even so, Drop definitely has more appeal for an experienced baker looking to delve into scale-based baking (or transition from a regular scale to an interactive, app-connected one). It's the kind of thing I'd buy for my mom, whereas the Perfect Bake and its color-coded bowls seem more like something I'd use to teach kids about baking.
I made Double Chocolate Muffins and Quick Bread with Herbs during testing and really enjoyed the process. Not only does the app look nice, it's also highly responsive. There was little-to-no lag time between adding an ingredient and seeing the display on the app adjust to reflect the new information.
Once, though, the app did get a little too ahead of itself. This was partly due to my own error, but I can see something similar happening in other kitchens as well. I misjudged the size of the mixing bowl I needed at one point and switched it midrecipe. Then, when I put the new bowl filled with the same ingredients back on the scale, it obviously didn't match the weight that was there before.
This threw off the measurements and the recipe thought I had already started adding a portion of the next ingredient. Fortunately, you can "zero" out of a recipe as needed.
I also got a bit overzealous on a couple of occasions. When I first started using the app, I didn't notice the relatively faint dotted line that indicates an ingredient's fill level. Drop makes it very clear when you do overfill something, but I didn't notice the dotted line until I had already added way too much yogurt to my muffin recipe. Since it was the first ingredient, I just scooped some out until it registered the correct weight.
In general, it seems a lot easier to accidentally pour in too much of an ingredient when you bypass measuring cups. Measuring cups let you reach into a bag of flour and retrieve close to the amount you need. Pouring directly from the bag of flour into the scale is risky business if you already have other ingredients in the bowl, as I learned. Of course, this isn't Drop's fault, but I definitely need a measuring cup to scoop out ingredients whether I'm using a scale or not.
Drop didn't seem to register smaller quantities, like a teaspoon of vanilla extract or baking powder, particularly well. For those measurements, I'd suggest sticking with a measuring spoon instead of relying on the scale for accuracy.
While the beauty of the scale and app working together is that the app automatically goes to the next step when the scale registers that you've added the correct amount of an ingredient, you also have the option of manually clicking through the steps on the app or by tapping the LED sensor on the scale itself. That means that you don't have to depend on the scale 100 percent. Still, it would be nice if you could.
Overall, though, the $100 Drop scale makes baking more fun. And it takes you through every step so you don't get stuck along the way. Sure you can find a similarly accurate kitchen scale for less, but Drop and its related app make it much easier for budding bakers to feel confident about the end result. Drop's pre-order period has just ended, so you can get your own unit on GetDrop.com now and in Apple stores starting November 18.