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Now, $69 sounds steep for an egg holder, but I had high hopes that Quirky's Egg Minder would be an elegant solution to a common food waste problem. After all, when I think of the number of eggs I've wasted because of uncertain freshness, it's not unreasonable to guess I might have disposed of them too liberally. If this device worked well, it might help recoup some of its cost by preventing wasted eggs. Alas, a glitchy app and inconsistent performance makes the Egg Minder a no-go. It's also not quite as smart as you might assume.
Is it better than a cardboard egg carton?
The Egg Minder is a AA-battery-powered tray that holds 14 eggs, or "a baker's dozen + 1" as Quirky quips on its packaging. It keeps track of how many eggs you have as well as the expiration dates of those eggs, based on both the date they arrived in the tray and how long you set the freshness period in the accompanying app.
Each individual egg cup comes equipped with a sensor and a small LED. The light next to the oldest egg will turn blue, indicating that you should use that one first. Once you remove that egg, the light beside the next oldest egg will light blue, and so on.The Egg Minder uses weight sensors to determine which cup contains an egg and when it arrived.
The Egg Minder then transmits this information to the Quirky Wink app, which works with iOS 6 and above and Android phones/tablets with version 2.2 or higher. With the app, you receive egg-based notifications and can change various settings like the freshness period.
The Egg Minder app page includes a pictorial representation of the inside of the device. You can click on each egg to see when it was added to the Egg Minder, as well as how many days are left until it expires. When an egg goes bad, a red ring should appear around the corresponding egg on the app. I appreciate being able to check on the dates of individual eggs, especially if I want to add new eggs to a tray where older eggs are still in the rotation. This is less useful if all of the eggs arrive on the same day.
The default settings are for a four-week freshness period. Under this default setting, the app will tell you that an egg has expired after sitting in the Egg Minder for 28 days. This number is calculated based on the average three- to five-week shelf life of refrigerated eggs. You can adjust this to meet your comfort level, however. For example, if you are especially brave, you can set the freshness period to five or even eight weeks. You can also dial it down to as short as two weeks.
Freshness period isn't the only element of the Egg Minder that you can customize. You can also program how many days in advance the app will alert you of your eggs expiring. In addition, you can customize the minimum stock alert settings, which reminds you to purchase more eggs once the app detects that you've used a certain number of them.
I always forget to check to see if I need eggs and, once at the store, always buy more just in case. Inevitably, I almost always already had a full carton plus one or two eggs from an older carton because of all of these "just in case" purchases. In theory, if I had this product in my home, I could see how many eggs I had left from the store and know whether or not to buy more. Unfortunately, my experience with the Egg Minder demonstrated that it's not always accurate.
But does it work?
Installing the app and connecting it to the Egg Minder is a simple process, made even easier by the quick-start card included with the device. I also like the app's interface and found it easy to locate the pertinent information and settings.
For the sake of test speed, I put a dozen newly purchased eggs into the Egg Minder on November 14 and set the freshness period to two weeks, or November 28. My first problem arose when, on November 20, the Egg Minder app indicated that I had used an egg even though I hadn't. It was still in the Egg Minder, but the app didn't recognize this. It never redetected the egg, either.
On November 28, the supposed expiration date, all of the eggs disappeared from the app, though they were still in the Egg Minder in our refrigerator. When I checked the app again on December 2, the eggs were back. Oddly enough, the app still indicated that the front left egg was missing.
In addition to this inconsistency, the app's depiction lacked the red circles promised by both the product page and manual. In order to confirm that they were expired, I had to click on each individual egg to see the "0 days left" message.
This wasn't difficult, but I wanted that visual indicator that the eggs had expired. If I owned this in real life, I might not always click on each individual egg, especially if I were in a rush. I'd likely look quickly at the app screen, see eleven eggs, and assume I didn't need to buy more. Those red circles would quickly tell me that I needed to dispose of the bad eggs. A week later, they still haven't shown up.
When I asked the Quirky team for more specifics about the sensors, they said, "The Egg Minder gives each egg placed into the tray a time stamp. This time stamp is used to determine the age of the egg. Expiration varies and so in the app itself, you are able to set thresholds on when the eggs should report as 'bad.' We compare the time stamp of when the egg was placed in to today's date to determine the egg's age, and if it's past the fresh threshold it'll be reported as a bad egg."
That's great, but it's a little short-sighted. What if I remove four eggs for a recipe that, in the end, only requires three? When I put that egg back into the Egg Minder, will it assume that I've put a new, fresh egg in the cup and begin the countdown anew, regardless of how old the egg was to begin with?
On December 4, I removed two eggs and replaced them in their exact, previous spots after a few minutes. The app reflected that I had placed two brand-new eggs in those cups. Granted, the eggs were only two weeks old to begin with and, therefore, didn't provide a health hazard. But what if your default expiration settings were programmed for four-week eggs? What if, after that period, an egg was mistakenly removed and replaced? The Egg Minder would show it as a brand-new egg with a brand-new four-week expiration period, meaning that, by the time the egg "expired" again, it would be more than eight weeks old.
In that case, I'm much more comfortable with the grocery store egg carton and its printed expiration date, which doesn't change based on operator error. If you're ever really in doubt, you can do the water test. Fill a large glass bowl with cool water and gently place an egg in the bowl. A good egg will sink to the bottom. A bad egg will float. If the egg stands on end but stays on the bottom of the bowl, you need to eat it soon. It's a rudimentary test but an effective one, nonetheless.
As it stands, the device only keeps track of an egg's arrival date and compares that to a predetermined expiration period, and not very well. To be truly useful, the Egg Minder needs to serve as a replacement for the water test. The inventory function would make it more valuable if it worked properly. For $69, I want a device that tells me whether or not my eggs are fresh, independent of a preprogrammed expiration date. As it can't do either of those things reliably, however, it's no better than the cardboard carton with printed expiration date.
In its current form, it's hard for me to recommend the Quirky Egg Minder. The glitchy app and the reality of human behavior make the expiration date on your store-bought egg carton more reliable. That said, I think Quirky's onto something with the Egg Minder; it just doesn't do enough well enough to make it worth it. If you're going to pay $69 for an egg holder, it needs to be stellar and without hiccups. In its current state, the Egg Minder falls short of the mark. For now, I'll stick with the carton's expiration date and water test.