So in what I'm sure is a classic case of the "devil you don't know" being better than the one you know...
I took the screen off neatly with a razor, keeping most of the adhesive in place, and I actually think if I ever second guess myself I can put it right back on with some creative use of sticky tape without needing to buy new ones from EspressoParts.com.
Yes there is definitely a static problem. It was evident around the bottom of the funnel in particular.
BUT I have a nice little brush that quickly dislodged everything from the inside of the funnel with a quick swipe, and now with no grid it was a quick swipe of the brush to empty out the chamber. My 10-15 second workflow of trying to get around the static screen (using a toothpick and then a handheld manual airblower) became a 3 second two swipes with the brush.
And the upside? No clumping at all. Yes a little bit of static in the wall of my yogurt cup, but a quick couple of side taps dislodged it easily, and I didn't even have to do the WDT (which saved me another 10 seconds).
The result in cup was very smooth latte, at least on par with before if not a bit better (I'm trying to rein in my enthusiasm in case I'm imagining an improvement). And I'm saving about 20 seconds every time I make a drink.
For now, I'm okay with this change. If I ever figure out the static part without reinstalling the screen, I'll consider this a total success. The price of having to deal with a little static and brushing out the inside of the funnel and chute are small prices to pay rather than springing another for a $1600 Mahlkonig Vario or better grinder.
My flatmate has a Blender Ball and Cup for his protein shakes (see image below). On a whim, I thought "I wonder if putting that in the dosing funnel, where it would sit at the bottom as the grinds exit, would have a similar effect to the anti-static screen without blocking the exit chute from the grind mechanism".
Also, just for fun, I took a thick rubber band and wrapped it on the outside of the yogurt cup funnel I put on top of my portafilter to see if that would reduce static there as well.
The end result? Static greatly reduced in both the funnel and the side of the yogurt cup. Didn't even have to tap the side of the yogurt cup. Grinds are much fluffier than before. Some grind may get caught in the funnel due to the placement of the blender ball (I think the ideal position is to have the spirals going mostly vertically from top to bottom, kind of like in the picture below) but even that was fixed with a quick swipe of the brush. The point is to have the grinds go past and contact the metal spiral ball while minimizing the chance of grinds getting caught behind it (some will get caught and it's no big deal, as soon as you shift the ball it mostly falls out).
I'm a very happy camper now with a very smooth and fast workflow: grind, one brush swipe behind the ball, 2 brush swipes to clean the chute, tamp. No need to do WDT. No clumping. Fluffy grinds. Happy amateur barista. :)
I wonder, if others follow suit, can this be called the Carlo Antistatic Method (CAM) like the WDT? Never had anything named after me. ;) :D
Dyno: which OE funnel are you using, the short, colored flared out ones or the long, tall, straight edged stainless steel one? If I choose to remove the screen I may try the tall stainless steel one (I think it's called the Ipanema?), which should handle the extra static better than the plastic of a yogurt cup. And the extra height should keep the bean from spraying all over the place.
Haha awesome - you're the first to use the CAM designation...your check is in the mail ;)
If people are interested I may try to take a video of my workflow and post it on YouTube in the next week or so. Then you can tell me if I'm lunatic fringe (though I think if I am, I'm with like-minded fringers here on CG)...
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