Develop B&W Film with Coffee! A Caffenol Developing Tutorial by Jennifer Stamps

How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

Developing film at home is so rewarding. It’s pretty special to be able to shoot, develop, and scan a roll of film in a single day.

And one easy way to start developing at home is to actually develop your film in coffee, also know as caffenol developing.

Shoot It With Film has some amazing, easy-to-follow tutorials on developing your own b&w film and developing color film. So if you’re unfamiliar with the tools needed or the basic process, be sure to check those out first.

Caffenol Film Developing - How to Develop B&W Film in Coffee
Caffenol Film Developing - How to Develop B&W Film in Coffee
120 Kodak Tri-X developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Kodak Tri-X in 120 developed in caffenol for 11 minutes

You might be asking yourself: why would someone want to develop their film in coffee?

For starters, it’s safer. Developing with traditional chemicals, well, you’re inviting chemicals into your home which can be troublesome for those with children and pets. Not only is it safer for your home, it’s also safer for the environment.

It’s also less expensive than conventional developing, and the ingredients can be purchased at the grocery store.

120 Ilford HP5 developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5 in 120 developed in caffenol for 10 minutes

Ingredients for Caffenol Developing

To develop your film in coffee (aka caffenol), you need:

Note: The caffenol replaces your developer. You will still need fix and soap for washing your film afterwards. I like to use Ilford Fixer and Kodak Photo-flo to wash.

Ingredients to Develop Film in Coffee - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Step-by-Step Caffenol Recipe

Now that you have everything you need, let’s make our caffenol.

  1. Mix 150 ML of cold water with six heaping teaspoons of your instant coffee (heaping = not leveled; more than leveled). Stir with a spoon until all the coffee crystals are dissolved.
  2. In a separate measuring cup, mix 200 ML of cold water with four level teaspoons of washing soda. Stir with a spoon until all the crystals are dissolved.
  3. Once all crystals are dissolved, combine the two mixtures and add one level teaspoon of vitamin c powder. Stir until the powder is dissolved. (It might foam a little, that’s ok).

Now, you have your caffenol. Mine smelled like fish food and strong coffee. Not sure if that’s the brand of vitamin c I got, or not. But you’ve been warned.

Caffenol Developing - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Important Things to Note

  • The water doesn’t need to be 20 degrees Celsius like it does with traditional processing. However, the water should be cold.
  • The washing soda takes more time to dissolve. Just continuously stir the mixture until all crystals are dissolved to avoid scratching your negatives.
  • Develop, stop, fix, wash your film (in that order) as you normally would. When stopping the film, if you just use water like me, you’ll want to make sure you fill and empty the tank a few times – until the water runs clear (you don’t want any caffenol getting in your fix mixture).
Caffenol Developing - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Caffenol Developing times

I shot three rolls of film for this experiment: one Ilford HP5+ on medium format (Amazon), one Ilford HP5+ on 35mm (Amazon), and one Kodak TriX400 on medium format (Amazon).

My research showed that the HP5+ should be developed for 10 minutes and the TriX should be developed for 11 minutes.

For both of the medium format rolls, I developed at the times above.

120 Ilford HP5 developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5 in 120 developed in caffenol for 10 minutes
120 Ilford HP5 developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5 in 120 developed in caffenol for 10 minutes
120 Kodak Tri-X developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Kodak Tri-X in 120 developed in caffenol for 11 minutes
120 Kodak Tri-X developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Kodak Tri-X in 120 developed in caffenol for 11 minutes

The 35mm roll was shot on a point and shoot, so I wasn’t 100% confident in the exposure. With that said, I developed in 20 seconds longer than the 10 recommended minutes. I’d rather have a roll over exposed and under exposed.

35mm Ilford HP5 developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5 in 35mm developed in caffenol for 10 minutes and 20 seconds
35mm Ilford HP5 developed in caffenol - How to Develop Film in Coffee by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
Ilford HP5 in 35mm developed in caffenol for 10 minutes and 20 seconds

Overall, I’m absolutely thrilled with the results. These are way better than I thought they’d be. I’ve developed at home using traditional chemicals for a few years, and I can’t tell the different between traditionally developed at home or developed with caffenol.

I will be using this technique in the future when I want to mix it up – or when I run out of developer.

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like 5 tips for getting out of a creative rut and a film camera review for the 35mm Olympus OM-1. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions developing b&w film in coffee below in the comments! You can also check out more articles on how to shoot film here!

Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and Developing Color Film in Black and White Chemicals.

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Blog Comments

JEN! These are sooo good! I would have no idea they were developed in something other than traditional developer! I want to give this a try!

Awe thanks, Amy! I’m so glad you liked the article. I had a lot of fun with it. I’ll definitely be going this more.

Thanks for such an informative post! I have used df96 at home and been pleased with the results. But caffenol seems like a great substitute when I just need to test gear or just experiment for fun. The images look great!

Thank you! I’m glad you liked the article. yes – this is definitely an option if/when you run out of developer. So glad you found it useful. Happy developing!

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