shadowfax wrote:Has anybody out there messed with sifting/sieving the fines from dry coffee grinds before brewing? ... I've always been rather bugged by the silt in my French press coffee ...
Just a slight off topic note. Removing fines will help with the silt problem. However, it should have no effect on the taste.
Fines are broken pieces of coffee cell wall, while coarse particles are one or more complete cells. The cell walls are insoluble cellulose, and brewing them results in no taste whatsoever. When the cell wall is broken, the soluble and volatile contents of the cell get smeared over the rest of the ground coffee, and this contributes to over extraction. I cannot see how sieving out the cell walls, while leaving the solubles, will change this.
In other words, you cannot get the same taste as a grinder that produces fewer fines by sieving one that does produce a lot of fines*. However, given the particle distributions of decent grinders, not that many cells are destroyed, and the difference may not be very distinguishable.
* Unless the bulk of the released solubles is sticking to the fines, but not the coarse particles, which would be odd.