Note: This product has been discontinued and replaced by a new unit, the Tappecue Touch. Here is the review: Tappecue Touch Review
The Tappecue is an innovative product that allows the user (or his/her friends) to monitor the progress of a cooking session via an app that runs on a smart device such as an iPhone, iPad or Android phone or tablet. The "black box" connects via Wi-Fi to a server in the cloud, and this data is accessed via the smart device. Push notifications can also be sent to the smart device. This approach eliminates any concern about range; if you can connect to the Internet with your phone or tablet, you can monitor your cook.
The device must be set up initially by tethering the Tappecue to your computer (Windows only! A Mac needs a Windows emulator!). During setup, you create an account with the manufacturer's server - a privacy issue for some, perhaps. Then, the device is configured to connect to your existing Wi-Fi router by inputting the SSID, security type (many are supported, WPA2 is recommended) and passwords for your router. If you don't use Wi-Fi, you can't use this product. It is also dependent upon the server in the cloud working - an issue if the company were to fail. And, of course, you need a late model smart device that runs iOS 5 or Android 3 or later versions. (My Galaxy S4 will work, but my significant other's S3 won't.) Once the initial configuration is done, it is stored until you change it, if, for example, you wanted to connect to a different router.
The device is powered by an AC adapter - there is no battery operation - so you won't worry about dead batteries, but you'll need AC power at your cooker.
The app is straighforward: you open it, log in to your account using an ID and password you set earlier, and either return to a previously started cooking session or you start a new one. (If you own multiple Tappecues, you can select which one you are currently using for the cook.) You can name the cooking session anything you want, and select which smart device will receive push notifications when temperature thresholds are passed.
You can monitor the temperature of each probe after setting either a trigger temperature or a range of temperatures for that probe. There are pre-programmed meat and doneness settings you can choose from a list, and modify them to suit your preferences. (You can also set default values for meat-doneness combinations, or create your own category, like "Simmering Stock." Lots of flexibility.
When a session is completed, you have the option of having session data e-mailed to you that can be imported and graphed in a downloadable Excel spreadsheet with a macro that does all the heavy lifting. You will, of course, need a late copy of Microsoft Office to do this. You can also monitor a crude temp vs. time graph in the smart device application.
I initially tried setting up the Tappecue by connecting to my Samsung Galaxy S4 using the built-in hotspot. The unit did connect, but it was dicey. (I stayed in close proximity to the Tappecue.) Running the app via my Verizon Internet link was not what I'd call a stable arrangement. I tried another router in our clubhouse to make the Wi-Fi connection, and this worked better, but I would still get the occasional "Wi-Fi disconnected" error message, even though I was only a few yards from the router. The app on my S4 would also occasionally just stop working. My impression is that the software and firmware still need some work. (Also, don't be tempted to install the firmware update if you are already running V1.0; it won't work.)
The main selling point of this unit is the "available everywhere" access to your cooking data. You will have to decide whether the hardware and software requirements, and the price, justify this feature. If you really need to monitor a cooking session from afar, this unit might be your only viable option. If you are going to stay near your cooker, there are less complicated solutions that cost fewer dollars.
This is the only thermometer system I've tested to date that requires AC. The manufacturer is also quite explicit that the unit won't tolerate dampness, so using it outside in rainy weather is out. This may or may not matter to you. The reliance on the company's server is also a potential problem. If it's down, or the company goes out of business, you'll have an expensive four-probe AC-powered unit that must be read directly from the device's display. You might want to download the user's manual from Tappecue's website to see if the complexity is right for you; this unit is designed for very tech-savvy users who get off on high-tech solutions.
The manufacturer's website and e-mail address are found in the manual. (I got a quick and helpful response via e-mail to a question I had. I didn't read the directions and applied the firmware update, screwing everything up. They sent me another firmware file that took me back to the original configurations. My bad!) The unit is covered by a 90 day limited warranty.
I have mixed emotions about this unit as you can sense from my misgivings. However, it's nicely made, has good accuracy, and provides some data availability not found on other units. It's not as stable as I'd like to see it, but that might well be rectified by future firmware updates. I'm giving it a Bronze medal because I'm just a little uneasy with its performance and the potential Achilles heels.
* and **: Two additional notes: The unit's measurement range is stated as 0 to 500ºF, but when I cooled down the probes for the ice water test, it read "LOW" right after it passed 50º. I also did not test the response times of the unit because it is apparently designed to damp quick fluctuations and sample slowly, rendering the measurement meaningless. However, speed of response is not an important consideration for a thermometer like this.