Monday, April 6, 2009

Adventures in Caffenol-C

It's been documented elsewhere, but once I found out about it I just had to try this — developing B&W film in a mixture of instant coffee, vitamin C, and washing soda. How cool is that? Here's what you need:

I used the Photojojo recipe:
12 oz. water
5 t. instant coffee
3-1/2 t. washing soda
1/2 t. vitamin C powder

I divided the water in half and dissolved the washing soda in one part and the coffee & vitamin C in the other. Let it sit until all bubbles were gone, then combined. I put the mixture in the fridge for a few minutes until it read 20° C.

How long to develop was a crapshoot. I've seen starting times on the web anywhere from 12 to 30 minutes. And to top it off I was developing a roll of Arista Premium 400 film I had exposed at ASA 800. I decided upon 30 minutes. I also didn't agitate as much as I would using regular developer. Just didn't seem necessary with such a long developing time.

It's funny how bad this stuff smells — you'd think it would result in pleasant-smelling coffee-tinged negatives, right? Well, to me it smelled like the air you let out of an old tire. Weird!

Anyhow, after 30 minutes I used a Kodak fixer and then washed using the Ilford method. Went to hang up the negatives, and...they looked black! Oh, crap, did they need more time since they were underexposed to begin with?

After holding them up to a light I was relieved to find they had indeed been developed — but a combination of underexposure and a coffee stain made them look different from the other negatives I've developed. The pictures are there, sure as hell.

Problem is, I couldn't scan them. They were too dark, which in most cases would indicate the photos were overexposed — except that in this case, the whole roll was deliberately underexposed by one stop. So I conclude that I let them soak too long...30 minutes was too much time. I'll try again soon, with a shorter soak time (and maybe a slightly higher temperature). Clearly, though, this developer is viable.


  1. I've only been using Caffenol for a few weeks, but I've found that if they are too dark, scan them in as a negative image and then load that image into your image program. GIMP's auto adjust color works well. Then convert it into a positive image. That works better than scanning it in and having the scanner automatically convert it into a positive image first.

    Hope this helps and have fun with the Caffenol.

    Michael Fortner

  2. Thanks, Michael, I have tried scanning the negatives and they're just too dense. I've tried a few ways, using Vuescan and my Canoscan 8400F...tried fiddling with the files in Lightroom, Photoshop, haven't had much luck yet. But I'll keep the negatives and hopefully figure them out one day.