Versalab M4 user experience

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

#1: Post by Mashie »

I am close to purchasing the M4 grinder. Any sharing of user experience would be greatly appreciated.

drH
Supporter ♡

#2: Post by drH »

Curious what led you to the M4?

Plinyyounger

#3: Post by Plinyyounger »

I can give you a few of my experiences. I have owned mine for about a month now, still in the honeymoon phase. It's a solidly built machine, love the design aspects and the machining, I like buying things with substance and this fits the bill for me. It's my fourth grinder, the two notable before it where/are the Atom specialty 65 which is a great grinder that I still own, and the second was a Max with LU silver knight burrs. I sold the Max and am keeping the 65 for now but I admit I haven't used it since receiving the M4.

I'm not going to get to technical or nerdy because I have not done particular testing. I judge my equip by workflow, taste, consistency and design.

So far I truly enjoy the M4 more than the other grinders I have/had. It's easy, but it's louder (not overwhelmingly though) and it's consistent. From the first day with it my shots have been really great. From light roasts to mediums, I don't drink dark. Each type of bean I've tried have been fantastic. I do notice a less acidic flavor then I was used to and a more even flavor profile which I like. The mouthfeel of my shots with the M4 appear more syrupy too. The biggest pronounced flavor difference for me is sourness. I just rarely get sourness now. We all know temp, grind, dose, time among other things can cause sourness, but I just don't get it much now. My machine uses the same temp, grinding for the same times and dosing the same, but sourness doesn't happen often. When it does it seems easily fixed with one of our common variables. I like this a lot, I'm drinking a lot of straight shots.

Work flow is as easy as you may have read from others, grind and tamp. It REALLY is that easy. Shots pull soooo evenly, I adore this aspect. I do not like Wdt, Rdt, etc to get my shots to pull well. I don't want to go back to that either. My poor Levercraft tool just sits in the cab and waves at me every time I pull a mug down, it hasn't seen ground coffee at all since the M4 arrived. I'm keeping it though!!

I think the Monolith is an awesome design and the fit and finish are better then the M4. Monolith does a really great job with their grinders and I personally feel they are put together better then most others. However, I've had one, liked it, it makes great espresso but it was not leaps and bounds better then my 65, it's a great machine though but not enough to keep it.

I don't feel that way with the M4, to me it's a lot better then my 65, and because of the prep, size, consistency and flavor I choose it over the MAX too, that's not a knock in any way, the M4 just checks all my boxes.

I'm glad to be back to single dose, I missed that after selling the Max, I do like having a couple beans avail and using them for my visitors.
Big 98mm flat grinder, been there done that, sold it. I’m happy now.

flexyrhead

#4: Post by flexyrhead »

I posted this in a Versalab-KafeTek comparison thread, but here it is again:
flexyrhead wrote:Hi all, just sharing my two cents after a week with the Versalab M4.

The Flow

I've only used a handful of grinders for espresso (Baratza Virtuoso and Sette 270; Mazzer Super Jolly), but a big difference between them and the M4 is the latter's true ease of use and reproducibility. Dosing directly into the PF is my preference, so I defaulted to the Sette until now. The M4 eliminating that 1" gap between the burrs and the PF makes a world of difference. I dose beans into my hand-thrown version of the large Loveramics dosing tray, hot start the M4, tip up the funnel cover, pour all 18g in, jiggle/rotate the PF in the holder, give the PF a stern vertical tap on the tamping mat, and tamp. It sounds like more steps than it feels like. The grinds "donut" in the PF is nearly indistinguishable from basket to basket. It's surprising to me that more grinders have not moved toward the M4's connected design because it is so much easier and cleaner than any other grinder I've used. I've yet to apply the grind size scale applique that Versalab includes. Frankly I think it's a bit ugly, and adjusting between beans only requires dumping a shot or two thus far. Too soon to tell how much adjustment will be needed as beans age.


The Grinds

I haven't yet borrowed a friend's Kruve to sift the grinds, but optically, their uniformity is impressive. The grind quality of the Sette 270 is great for what you pay, but I found the occasional boulder and fair share of fines. I've seen no boulders and just a few fines in a few of my baskets on the M4 - perhaps this will resolve with seasoning, but I'm not too worried about it given the rarity. Being conical vs. flat, this isn't really a fair comparison. What stands out most about the M4 grinds is their fluffiness and lack of oil. An example: In an early experiment with grinding for pourover, I grinded directly into a v60 filter (not a recommended workflow). When I shook and tapped the filter to even the grinds bed out, not a single speck stuck to the paper. The grinds are just clean.


The Pull

With my prior grinders, I had the puck prep down such that channeling and spritzers were rare except when dialing in. The same is true with the M4, albeit with much less puck prep. My extractions usually start with a slow secretion in the centre of the basket, shortly followed by extraction along the outer rim, which in 5-10 seconds coalesces into a nice singular flow with no channeling and minimal dead zones on the bottom of the basket. This extraction pattern is no doubt due in part to the grinds "donut" the M4 creates in the PF, and I am considering investing in a distributor tool (Saint Anthony Industries, etc.) to make the top layer more uniform before tamping. I don't yet know if I can call this a downside of the M4, but if you're obsessed with pretty pucks, it might bother you to have a presumptive difference in grinds density after tamping due to the "donut". That said, it's much easier to remedy than the mess of grinds that comes from other grinders.


The Cup

In what is surely sacrilege for a grinder of this calibre, I mostly go for milk drinks. With straight shots, I'm impressed by the mouthfeel. I typically associate good texture/mouthfeel with conicals, but the shots from my M4 have a buttery smooth and almost effervescent quality to them. With the recent warm weather in Toronto, I've made a few iced Americanos with fruitier single origins. The brightness really comes through on these. I drank an iced natural process Ethiopian Ardi (from Hyperion in Ypsilanti, MI) that, blindfolded, I would have guessed was actual strawberry lemonade. My wife, who is not a black coffee fan, said she could tell it was coffee but that the lemon/strawberry notes were more apparent than the usual tasting notes I suggest. On the milk side, I ran through a bag of Onyx's Monarch blend and had some of the best cortados and machiattos of my life - syrupy texture and really deep and complex chocolate, malt, and molasses notes.


The Grind

You know - the maintenance. Burr access is simple, with the caveat that the static wiper is difficult to identify if you don't know where to look and, I understand, is easily bent. I took the burr assembly apart today to check retention and found that there was <.05g in the assembly itself. The lower funnel is another story. I applied the included fruit wax to the bottom funnel as instructed but find that there is still more retention than expected. I haven't measured it, but I would guess <.75g. If I run the motor no retained grounds come out, but adjusting the top funnel results in a few "logs". Perhaps I did not apply the wax liberally enough or wiped too much of it off when buffing. I'll report back if a second application fixes this.


The Spectacle

The feel of this machine is very substantial and polished. The look of it always came across to me as a bit cute and simple, but upon seeing it in person, the quality was striking. It looks like something you would see in an industrial design museum. It's heavy and everything moves with a feeling of definiteness and purpose. If I have one knock on the M4, it's the power switch, which feels squishy by comparison. If I have two knocks, it's the funnel cover, but it is becoming part of the charm.

* * *

That's it for now. I look forward to trying more coffees on the M4. It's improved my coffee experience so much that I'm considering buying decaf so I can enjoy more coffee later in the day!
About three months down now, I'm still very happy with my purchase. I did get a Saint Anthony Industries grinds distributor to even out the grinds "donut" and my shots extract more evenly on the horizontal plane now. Even with that added step, I think the workflow of the M4 really sets it apart. I'm dumbfounded that other manufacturers haven't incorporated this design.

BaristaBob

#5: Post by BaristaBob »

Mashie wrote:I am close to purchasing the M4 grinder. Any sharing of user experience would be greatly appreciated.
I think there is some good information on this site if you do a Versalab M3/M4 search.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..I've come to drink you once again"

Plinyyounger

#6: Post by Plinyyounger »

There actually is not very much info on the grinder from current users. There are certainly some with good input but not like all the other grinders we currently are buying. I too like hearing from current users especially when things change so quickly.
Big 98mm flat grinder, been there done that, sold it. I’m happy now.

ira
Team HB

#7: Post by ira »

That grinder is basically unchanged since I first started here, 12 years ago. Other that some customer service issues back then, I don't think I've ever seen anything but positive comments about the VS. I considered buying one as my first grinder but the customer service issues scared me, I still regret not buying a VS in place of the Macap I ended up with.

Plinyyounger

#8: Post by Plinyyounger » replying to ira »

Agreed, the remedying of the burr alignment issues then updating it in 19 to the M4 has made it a great option. I don't have any issues with stalling as described in the M3 versions, it has eaten any bean I've throw at it. I may take mine to a machine shop and see if I can change the base plate and case to something more exiting, that would be a fun project. I'd also change the on/off switch to something lighted and place it on the side of the grinder. But with that said, I just pulled the best Lionshare shot I've had about 20 min ago, lol.
Big 98mm flat grinder, been there done that, sold it. I’m happy now.

timothyp

#9: Post by timothyp »

Nothing but good things to say about mine.

Workflow is light years ahead of any single dose grinder I've used.