Caffenol - The step by step tutorial on how to develop film with vitamin C and coffee
Can you really develop film with coffee and vitamin C? Surprisingly yes, you can. I first heard about the process of using coffee and vitamin C (also known as Caffenol) to develop film about a year ago. It sounded fairly easy to do, so I gave it a try and I was pleased with the results. It was fun, inexpensive, and the developed film came out looking great.
Equipment You Will Need:
Chemistry You Will Need:
Some items that you need to develop film with Caffenol may be found in your home already. If not, they can be purchased online or at a local grocery store. A great photography store I use and recommend is Adorama. You can find the developing tank, fixer, and Photo-Flo there. I purchased the washing soda at a grocery store. It was located in the laundry detergent aisle. It's also sold at pool supply stores (known as soda ash or sodium carbonate). I could not find vitamin C powder anywhere locally, so I purchased that online.
Step 1: Prepare Your Darkroom
Take you roll of film, developing tank, bottle opener, and scissors into the darkest room of your home. Sit in the dark for a moment to see if any light is leaking around the door. If there is, cover it up with a black trash bag or towel. Once your room is light free, flip on the light switch and arrange your film canister, tank, etc. so you will remember where they are located. Why you ask?
Step 2: Lights Out
This step needs to be done in complete darkness, so turn the lights off. Pry open the film canister with the bottle opener and remove the film. Cut the film leader off and feed the film through the reel. Twist the reel forward and backwards to load the film on the reel. When you are at the end of the roll, cut the film off the spool and feed the rest onto the reel. Slide the reel down on the spindle, screw the lid closed, and cover it up with the plastic cap. (I suggest you waste a roll of film and try doing this step with the lights on first to see what you are doing, and then practice with your eyes closed until you can do it perfectly)
Step 3: Prepare The Developer
This is what you will need to make 12 oz. of developer. It is enough do develop one roll of 35mm film. If you are developing 120 film, simply double the amounts.
Mix the washing soda in 6 oz. of water and stir until dissolved. Next, in another 6 oz. of water, add the coffee and vitamin C and stir until dissolved. Combine the two solutions. Once the bubbles have disappeared, remove the plastic lid from your tank, pour in the developer, and replace the lid back on the tank.
Set your timer for 15 minutes and start. Slowly agitate the mixture in the developing tank (rotate the container upside down then right side up) constantly for the first minute. Then agitate 3 times every minute for the remaining 14 minutes. While you are waiting for the developing to complete, you can prepare your fixer. Follow the mixing directions and pour in to the large pitcher.
Step 4: Stop And Fix
When the 15 minutes are up it is time to pour out the developer into the sink. Fill up the tank with water and agitate 6 times and pour the water out into the sink. Repeat the water rinse process 2 more times. Next, pour 12 oz. of fixer into the empty tank. Set the timer for 5 minutes and agitate 3 times every minute. When the time is up, pour the fixer back into the pitcher and cover. (it can be reused)
Step 5: Final Rinse
Fill the tank with water and agitate 6 times then pour the water out into the sink. Refill the tank with fresh water, agitate 8 times and pour out. Refill the tank again with fresh water, agitate 12 times and pour out. On the fourth and final rinse, add a few drops of Photo-Flo to 12 oz. of water. Agitate 15 times and then your done. Open the tank and remove the reel.
Step 6: Hang And Dry The Film
Use the clothespin to hang the roll of film from a clothes line or a hanger in the shower. Use a second clothes pin at the bottom of the roll to prevent it from curling up as it dries. While the film is hanging, place it between your index and middle finger and squeegee off any remaining water. It is important to do this step in an area where there is not a lot of dust.
Step 7: Scan Your Film
Scan your film into your computer and enjoy!
Developing in Caffenol works best with slower speed black and white film below ISO 400. I have tried this process using color film and ended up with a sepia tone. The developing times and results may vary depending on what brand of film you use. I have used Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros in 120 and 35mm and had no issues. A lot is trial and error, so you will have to adjust accordingly.
Here are some photos from roll I developed to make this blog post. I used a 120 roll of Fuji Acros ISO 100 film developed for 15 minutes. They look a little overdeveloped, so next time I will cut back the developing time by a few minutes.