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.
Ingredients for Caffenol Developing
To develop your film in coffee (aka caffenol), you need:
Now that you have everything you need, let’s make our caffenol.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.