Versalab M3 Thoughts and Discovery

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gophish

#1: Post by gophish »

I received an M3 about 6 weeks ago and have been documenting my thoughts on the usage, design, and taste comparisons with other single dosing grinders like the Compak K10 PB and Monolith Flat, as well as some limited testing with a Mahlkonig K30 and a Slayer Single Group. I know this is somewhat self promotional to link these posts to an outside site, but I'm hoping you'll look past that because:

-I didn't really feel it would be very productive to simply cut and paste the content of those posts here, but I do feel like a lot of the content is relevant, especially given a few threads I've seen posted in recent weeks, and I would genuinely like to have a conversation and discuss if others have had similar findings.

-I haven't really seen any recent head to heads with the M3, or comparisons with it against many of the other single dosers or on a machine like a slayer, so maybe that will be helpful for someone researching a new grinder.

-Despite lots of prior research, I never really understood the M3. If you do much searching, most threads and reviews are quite old and numerous threads turn into a back and forth of sorts without any clear information. I was somewhat curious as to why that was, and why there was so much controversy around it. As stated in my posts, a lot of my findings involved Versalab's communications, and sometimes lack thereof, and sometimes not in a manner that was relate-able or that clearly communicated the usage of the grinder and/or changes they've made over the years. In short, I've found they're engineers, not marketers.

So, I hope I don't rub anyone the wrong way, or stir up any trouble by doing so, mods - please contact me if you have concerns, and I hope sharing my recent findings of the M3 can start a relevant discussion to the new more populated single dosing market.

http://www.meticulist.net/versalab-m3-s ... er-review/
This first post looks at usage, since I think this might have been my biggest discovery, is that the M3 was not designed with usage similar to other single dosing Titans. This ends up being a theme as I discovered that the M3 was designed with different priorities in mind, or at least a different way of getting there, so the usage is dictated as such.

http://www.meticulist.net/blog/versalab ... iew-part-2
This second post is more of the standard details looking at the design, function, unboxing, etc.

http://www.meticulist.net/blog/versalab ... taste-test
This third post goes into taste comparisons with the likes of the Compak K10PB, Monolith Flat, Mahlkonig K30, a Slayer Single Group, and different methods of workflow based on the intended usage of the M3. This is probably the most pertinent post to the discussions here at HB, as I found the M3 was purposely designed to not require redistribution, RDT, WDT, etc., which take additional time between grinding and pulling the shot, and this can impact the flavor in the cup.

I look forward to hearing any thoughts, questions, or discussions.
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Donguanella
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#2: Post by Donguanella »

Did you buy your M3 new -- or did you buy it used?

I've been in the market for an upgraded grinder and I've been surprised both by how little has been written about this grinder and how underwhelming its product page is on their website.

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another_jim
Team HB

#3: Post by another_jim »

I'm glad your non-blind taste tests confirmed your prior spending decisions. What are the odds?
Jim Schulman

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civ

#4: Post by civ »

Hello:
another_jim wrote:What are the odds?
8^D !!!

Cheers,

CIV

ds

#5: Post by ds »

gophish wrote:I received an M3 about 6 weeks ago and have been documenting my thoughts on the usage, design, and taste comparisons with other single dosing grinders...
I read your review and I apologize for being stickler, but I am in sales, so... When you say received do you mean, purchased by your own funds, got it as gift from company in exchange for review or got it on loan for review purposes? Reason I am asking is that you are in US and should look into FTC Act and disclose properly.
What if I return the product after I review it? Should I still make a disclosure?

That might depend on the product and how long you are allowed to use it. For example, if you get free use of a car for a month, we recommend a disclosure even though you have to return it. But even for less valuable products, it's best to be open and transparent with your readers.
As former owner of this grinder, there was no issue with it being OK out of box, but there was an issue with it being good after 6-12 months. Mine deteriorated after about 8 months, coffee egg-drop, spritzing, slipping belt, etc. etc. I got no help beyond fruit wax and acetone cleaning of the belt. I sold it at loss with disclosure of these issues.

Question is why would someone send grinder to Frank, half way around the world, and pay as much to fix it as one paid for the unit itself? Products at this price point should generally not need any fixing and if they do then fixing ought to be done by manufacturer...

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AssafL
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#6: Post by AssafL »

I have had a Versalab M3 since September 2010. If you look at previous posts you'll see that it wasn't all smooth sailing. But neither was the Mazzer Mini E that came before.

There are 3 main issues that plagued the discussion boards over time: power, belt slippage and alignment. None of these is hard to fix nor was a show stopper for me (and I guess for the technical minded) and I get great coffee from my grinder.

No WDT is a function of weather. Indeed - usually the VL doesn't need it - at least not in hot and humid Tel Aviv.

I think quite a lot of bad vibe would have been eliminated with a better website that has technical details and instructions for how to align, etc.
Scraping away (slowly) at the tyranny of biases and dogma.

samuellaw178
Team HB

#7: Post by samuellaw178 »

Colin, thank you for sharing. When I had the Versalab, I did find that it benefited from WDT. But it's certainly passable without one. From memory, my impression of the shots from the Versalab were cleaner but 'thinner' compared to conicals. So it seems like we have a different experience - the shots are still great though.

The 'freshness' test is interesting. I am curious and will try to replicate/confirm that. Using the Monolith Conical and grinding for single (9 g), I was able to grind, WDT, tamp, lock in and start pulling in 20s (timed from the moment I switch on the grinder until I pull down on the lever). That was as fast as I could manage (man, I thought I was in a sprinting competition :lol: ). I also compared the same coffee with another shot with 2 min rest time (the wait time felt like forever). Not sure if I tasted any much improvement right out of the gate, but will be keen to repeat that (probably using a pump machine with a more consistent temperature output).

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gophish (original poster)

#8: Post by gophish (original poster) »

Donguanella wrote:Did you buy your M3 new -- or did you buy it used?

I've been in the market for an upgraded grinder and I've been surprised both by how little has been written about this grinder and how underwhelming its product page is on their website.
Sort of both, it was one of their bench test units. And you're absolutely correct about the information available if you did want to understand the grinder. It wasn't designed to use grooming tools or wdt or redistribution, but that message is not clear.
another_jim wrote:I'm glad your non-blind taste tests confirmed your prior spending decisions. What are the odds?
When I had my wife mix the cups and serve blind or I closed my eyes and mixed them up to the point I didn't know which was which between my K10 and the M3, and the M3 pulled immediately vs waiting, it was pretty close to blind. And when three of us did the Monolith comparison, we served each other in a blind fashion, and results were consistent with what I reported. I knew I would stir up past sentiments with this post, which is the opposite of my intent, since majority of those sentiments are 10 years old.
ds wrote:As former owner of this grinder, there was no issue with it being OK out of box, but there was an issue with it being good after 6-12 months. Mine deteriorated after about 8 months, coffee egg-drop, spritzing, slipping belt, etc. etc. I got no help beyond fruit wax and acetone cleaning of the belt. I sold it at loss with disclosure of these issues.

Question is why would someone send grinder to Frank, half way around the world, and pay as much to fix it as one paid for the unit itself? Products at this price point should generally not need any fixing and if they do then fixing ought to be done by manufacturer...
This unit was a bench unit from Versalab for testing, I did not pay for and do not own it. I'm a hobbyist, just like most of you, and I did not receive any compensation from these posts. I had many clear conversations with the company prior to them sending, and it was agreed that all thoughts posted would be my own. I'm not an official review site by any means, it's a blog, thus it's all going to be somewhat opinionated, but they are my opinions and findings.

Your point of sending it to Frank is one I'm also curious about, and part of why I reached out to Versalab to begin with, none of it was clear. So far, I'm not seeing any evidence why someone would need to do, but I've only been using the grinder for 6 or 7 weeks now. This is one area that I'm hoping to understand further.
AssafL wrote:I have had a Versalab M3 since September 2010. If you look at previous posts you'll see that it wasn't all smooth sailing. But neither was the Mazzer Mini E that came before.

There are 3 main issues that plagued the discussion boards over time: power, belt slippage and alignment. None of these is hard to fix nor was a show stopper for me (and I guess for the technical minded) and I get great coffee from my grinder.

No WDT is a function of weather. Indeed - usually the VL doesn't need it - at least not in hot and humid Tel Aviv.

I think quite a lot of bad vibe would have been eliminated with a better website that has technical details and instructions for how to align, etc.
Your posts and technical abilities far surpass my own, but I generally agree. From my conversations with Versalab, these issues have largely been addressed, and kind of like I mentioned to ds, I'm not experiencing any as of yet. The skeptics might argue it's because I have a bench unit, but I don't feel that is the case.
samuellaw178 wrote:Colin, thank you for sharing. When I had the Versalab, I did find that it benefited from WDT. But it's certainly passable without one. From memory, my impression of the shots from the Versalab were cleaner but 'thinner' compared to conicals. So it seems like we have a different experience - the shots are still great though.

The 'freshness' test is interesting. I am curious and will try to replicate/confirm that. Using the Monolith Conical and grinding for single (9 g), I was able to grind, WDT, tamp, lock in and start pulling in 20s (timed from the moment I switch on the grinder until I pull down on the lever). That was as fast as I could manage (man, I thought I was in a sprinting competition :lol: ). I also compared the same coffee with another shot with 2 min rest time (the wait time felt like forever). Not sure if I tasted any much improvement right out of the gate, but will be keen to repeat that (probably using a pump machine with a more consistent temperature output).
Thanks Sam, that is very fast! As I stated in the posts, I would not say the difference was dramatic, but it was detectable on a repeatable basis, and I do think when discussing an upper echelon of grinders that are all excellent, it is one area that may serve to differentiate. I don't use a funnel, since I use the portafilter holder, so WDT is actually pretty difficult with the big M3 dosing pattern. I've simply been vertically tapping to settle the grounds with good results.

I went back and forth posting this because of some of the past it would potentially bring up with longtime members. I don't have a dog in this fight, nor am I a lab doing scientific testing, nor do I try and pretend that I am. But I know when I research the M3 the information is confusing, and I wanted to better understand why. And if I can help provide additional comparisons and perspective to someone shopping for a new single dosing grinder, I'm happy regardless of which way they go. I just know that this information can be hard to come by, and can be very helpful for those that are shelling out thousands of dollars for a grinder without ever seeing it in the metal. And sharing that information is my motivation for posting this, not to bring up past issues, but to have a genuine discussion about what I'm finding, present day.
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Exordium01

#9: Post by Exordium01 »

I'm glad you realized WDT is unnecessary, but it isn't something that's unique to the M3. I'm partial to Orphan Espresso Doug's "slap shot" method, where you grind into the basket (or dump grinds into the basket), rap it once on the table (or mat, or as Doug uses, a hockey puck) to level and compact, tamp, and go.

WDT is sort of accepted as dogma, and it is an effective method of guaranteeing level grounds, but it is by no means the only way to achieve the result. I don't buy the argument that it redistributes fines, especially with large flat grinders because the output is already a distribution.

Also, the stuff that's volatile enough to evaporate out of grounds at room temperature in a matter of seconds would almost certainly evaporate out of the high surface area cone of near boiling liquid coming out of the portafilter on a similar (if not shorter) timescale.

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aecletec

#10: Post by aecletec »

Exordium01 wrote: WDT is sort of accepted as dogma
Really? No, there was much resistance to the idea of playing with grounds. WDT became accepted due to people trying and testing it, finding it improves flavour and even extractions. If you don't need it, or notice the improvement that's handy for you.