Versalab M4 Unboxing and First Espresso - Page 4

Grinders are one of the keys to exceptional espresso. Discuss them here.
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BaristaBoy E61

#31: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

To the OP, how has this grinder improved the taste of your shots in the cup?

I found the most interesting part of the 2nd video you posted was that of pulling a shot and in particular watching the shot develop at the bottom of the naked portafilter through the shot mirror and watching the timer/scale.

It looked to me that the timing was rather fast and the grind needs to be a bit less fine. A difficult place to be without line level preinfusion or some sort of flow control.

I know the video was shot early in the game so things might have changed from then to now. The beans also play a role, the seem to be on the light side of roasting.

Great grinder - I am intrigued - Congrats!
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

roblumba

#32: Post by roblumba »

I've had the Versalab for a while now and upgraded the belt but still need to install the upgraded burrs. I've also enjoyed the fact that I don't need to do any distribution technique. In fact, any distribution technique tends to make things worse rather than better. A simple vertical tap and tamp is all that is needed. Unfortunately, I don't have any better grinder to compare though I think the Mazzer Robur might provide a better match to the flavor profile that many roasters are aiming for. But at the same time I sometimes get flavors from some difficult medium and light roasts that would be challenging for the shops to achieve on the Robur. The ability to dial in the grind from shot to shot is a godsend for the home barista.

steelval3

#33: Post by steelval3 »

I've now had my M4 for all of a week :D so a lot more to learn/enjoy.

So far, so (mostly) great.


First, the good. The workflow is as advertised. I've found that espresso (as a hobby) is about what's in the cup, but also the whole process of owning the gear and using it (not just the taste in the cup). Not having to RDT, WDT, no puffing out grinds, no funnels, and the joy of the workflow is really something.

Further to that end, a user on here (Auctor) once said:
I think there are two basic truisms in grinder lore:

1) Anything above $2500 will likely have marginal taste differences, and not objectively "better"
2) Because of #1, focus on the workflow, aesthetics, and reputation that best fit your needs.
I agree with this. Also, with the DE1, you can manipulate what's in the cup without relying so heavily on the grinder - which means the workflow of the grinder matters even more.

But - the taste has also been really really good. I tend to prefer conical (really like my MC4, and liked my Niche before that), but coming back to a flat (owned a DF64 once upon a time) / DRM I've found I really like the change of pace. Great flavor notes, can still pull a lot of chocolate, etc. if I desire and use the right beans, but also can stretch a lighter roast in new ways.


Now, the bad / nitpicks. First, I'm seeing a fair bit (~1 gram) of retention in the lower funnel. I've tried the fruit wax (a couple of times already), but no dice. I think this is staying in the funnel, and I'm not having any exchange retention between shots, but it's hard to know for sure (time will tell).

I've also noticed that, when changing grind settings (coarser or finer), a clump of grinds will fall from the funnel (maybe 0.1g or 0.2g worth). I'm not sure if others are experiencing this or if it's unique to me.

I'm still perfecting the post-grind "tap tap" to settle the donut, as well. I've been WDTing for so long, it's hard to get used to the bed not being 100% flat before tamping. Sometimes I worry it's effecting the shot. But the bottomless hasn't sprayed, etc.


Ultimately, I got the Versalab because I had to try this grinder and the workflow. It doesn't get the hype as some other brands. It has a pretty passionate following of people that love them. You hardly see them for resale. People aren't shy about complaining or nitpicking, but most folks (it seems) also stick with the grinder, which says something (because grinder upgrade-itis is real). So far, I've really enjoyed it. I'm still in the honeymoon phase, I know, so I'll report back later.

Also - I created this grind dial that can be printed. It's a snug fit on the bottom of the upper funnel. If you put a small indicator (in my photo, a black sticker cut into an arrow) in the middle, it seems to work pretty well. https://www.printables.com/model/322629 ... grind-dial


MochaBoi

#34: Post by MochaBoi »

Hey all!

First comment on HB and it's only appropriate it pertains to the workhorse on my kitchen counter, the Versalab M4.
I'm commenting just to be a part of the gang as I mostly echo the sentiments above.

I'm new to espresso +/- 3 months and started with this grinder. Whether I've shown this to an espresso enthusiast or a coffee rookie, all responses have been the same: aesthetics are gorgeous in person (I clarify as prior to owning didn't think pictures did it justice) and the workflow is smooth.

Agreed on the dial topic, the dial sticker could be prettier. the above printed dial is a great idea. I've also seen Frank Terranova etch the dial into his customized/improved grinders and think that is the end goal. Either I'll take a shot at etching or involve a professional one day, to be determined.

I'll add some other points should anyone reading this be in the position I was in this past summer (~July '22). The Versalab does not get much attention, particularly on the more visited or social platforms, and if you're discovering this then you--like me-- dove into the rabbit hole of research. This dive was necessitated as pretty much every grinder I had my eye on (aesthetic and performance elite, if you will) had a several months wait to maybe get a chance to pre-order. The ordering process once I phoned up versalab was seamless and immediate relative to the alternative grinder timelines (3-4 weeks total for versalab).

Perhaps one day we will also have easily order-able accessories or aesthetic upgrades for popcorn lids or knobs as other grinders have.

BVLDARI (original poster)
Supporter ♡

#35: Post by BVLDARI (original poster) »

BaristaBoy E61 wrote:To the OP, how has this grinder improved the taste of your shots in the cup?

I found the most interesting part of the 2nd video you posted was that of pulling a shot and in particular watching the shot develop at the bottom of the naked portafilter through the shot mirror and watching the timer/scale.

It looked to me that the timing was rather fast and the grind needs to be a bit less fine. A difficult place to be without line level preinfusion or some sort of flow control.

I know the video was shot early in the game so things might have changed from then to now. The beans also play a role, the seem to be on the light side of roasting.

Great grinder - I am intrigued - Congrats!
Unfortunately I have not had much time to enjoy or play with this. I traveled for literally 5 weeks starting starting in the first week of October and then was out another two weeks - finally no plans to fly anywhere through the rest of the year.

In addition to the travel, my Breville Oracle Touch broke (this is probably the 5th time the oracle has broke in 6 years) so I am out of a machine again. Going to start shopping for something different.

I also had about 5 different coffees that I was trying to finish up so I didn't even have a good baseline to really compare.

Overall I am very happy with it and the retention has improved since the first few times. I was slapping the portafilter with the forks but realized that was adjusting the grinds so instead of doing that I now tap the grinder and that seems to take care of the retention. So far no regrets although I have nothing else high end to compare it to.

RTOBarista
Supporter ♡

#36: Post by RTOBarista »

Did you consider the Titus espresso grinder? Significant upgrade to the Versalab m4 and significant higher price about $7000+. The scale is on a metal plate with updated enclosed drive mechanisim, stronger motor? etc.

BVLDARI (original poster)
Supporter ♡

#37: Post by BVLDARI (original poster) »

steelval3 wrote: Now, the bad / nitpicks. First, I'm seeing a fair bit (~1 gram) of retention in the lower funnel. I've tried the fruit wax (a couple of times already), but no dice. I think this is staying in the funnel, and I'm not having any exchange retention between shots, but it's hard to know for sure (time will tell).

I've also noticed that, when changing grind settings (coarser or finer), a clump of grinds will fall from the funnel (maybe 0.1g or 0.2g worth). I'm not sure if others are experiencing this or if it's unique to me.

I'm still perfecting the post-grind "tap tap" to settle the donut, as well. I've been WDTing for so long, it's hard to get used to the bed not being 100% flat before tamping. Sometimes I worry it's effecting the shot. But the bottomless hasn't sprayed, etc.

image
Congrats and glad you are enjoying it. Here are my thoughts/experiences with the same:
- in the first week or two - the retention was noticeable. I called Laura and she suggested NOT using the wax and giving it a bit of time. After a couple of weeks the retention is much better with maybe 0.1g on average if any at all. My guess is the coffee built up a layer against the funnel walls, which is helping the new grinds fall. I have no way to prove this but seems logical.
- I tried slapping the forks against the portafilter but that seemed to shift the grinds so I stopped doing that. I now tap the top of the grinder with my fist once and that seems to work well enought.
- I do tap the portafilter once gently which seems to help a bit. One of our other members (Plinyyounger) doesn't even tap - straight tamp and he says it works great for him. I've tried it a couple of times and seems to work well enough but I don't have enough tries to offer a real opinion.

BVLDARI (original poster)
Supporter ♡

#38: Post by BVLDARI (original poster) »

RTOBarista wrote:Did you consider the Titus espresso grinder? Significant upgrade to the Versalab m4 and significant higher price about $7000+. The scale is on a metal plate with updated enclosed drive mechanisim, stronger motor? etc.
I did not. I didn't see a quick way to order and also to me the price difference was significant especially since I am looking to get a new espresso machine. Good news is Versalab seems to hold price well used so if I decide to upgrade that should be relatively painless.

BVLDARI (original poster)
Supporter ♡

#39: Post by BVLDARI (original poster) »

Going to start a new thread but for those of you reading this one with experience with the Versalab: my Breville Oracle broke again (this is probably the 5th time the Oracle has broken in 6 years). This one lasted 15 months before starting to smoke and make odd noises even when it's off... The bad news is the reliability is atrocious. The good news is Breville has been good at supporting the machine (I don't know how they are making money on this machine).

Anyway, I would like a variable flow rate machine. The two that have caught my eye are the Decent and the Dalla Corte Mina. Obviously a bit of a price gap between the two.

I may need to also get an auto tamper for the wife if I get a new machine - she really enjoys the Oracle for how automated everything is. She drinks mostly americanos. I drink mostly espressos.

Quester

#40: Post by Quester »

BVLDARI wrote:I called Laura and she suggested NOT using the wax and giving it a bit of time. After a couple of weeks the retention is much better with maybe 0.1g on average if any at all.
Laura certainly would know. Having said that, the couple of times I had coffee stick to the bottom funnel, I took it off, washed it thoroughly, spread a tiny amount of fruit wax evenly with my fingers, then buffed firmly with a soft cloth. That solved the "falling coffee logs" problem. What I don't know is whether the cleaning part or the waxing part made the difference.

BVLDARI wrote: - I do tap the portafilter once gently which seems to help a bit. One of our other members (Plinyyounger) doesn't even tap - straight tamp and he says it works great for him. I've tried it a couple of times and seems to work well enough but I don't have enough tries to offer a real opinion.
I found as I got better at that tap over time (more even), I got better results in the cup.