Biopanning bacterial display libraries is a proven technique for peptide affinity reagent discovery for recognition of both biotic and abiotic targets. Peptide affinity reagents can be used for similar applications to antibodies, including sensing and therapeutics, but are more robust and able to perform in more extreme environments. Specific enrichment of peptide capture agents to a protein target of interest is enhanced using semi-automated sorting methods which improve binding and wash steps and therefore decrease the occurrence of false positive binders. A semi-automated sorting method is described herein for use with a commercial automated magnetic-activated cell sorting device with an unconstrained bacterial display sorting library expressing random 15-mer peptides. With slight modifications, these methods are extendable to other automated devices, other sorting libraries, and other organisms. A primary goal of this work is to provide a comprehensive methodology and expound the thought process applied in analyzing and minimizing the resulting pool of candidates. These techniques include analysis of on-cell binding using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), to assess affinity and specificity during sorting and in comparing individual candidates, and the analysis of peptide sequences to identify trends and consensus sequences for understanding and potentially improving the affinity to and specificity for the target of interest.