Cafenol using Vitamin C tablets

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by rebecca_skinner, Jun 10, 2012.

  1. I am new to film photography but not to digital. With that being said I am just dying to try the cafenol as it has one of the longest shelf lives ever and I can mix it up as I need it. I bought the powdered D 76 and the powdered fixer thinking I could mix that up as I needed it from the powder. (That worked well[?])

    Since the goal here is to reflect my poor student pocketbook (and impatience), can I grind up vitamin C tablets? Or would the additives in the tablets interfere in the developing?
    Thank so much.
  2. That is what I do. I wait until they are on sale like buy one get one free at local drug stores. The little bit of starch in them seems not to cause me any problems.
  3. I am just dying to try the cafenol as it has one of the longest shelf lives ever and I can mix it up as I need it.​
    Rebecca, not to dampen your experimental spirit, but if inexpensive, long shelf life and ease of mixing is a goal check out Kodak HC-110. You mix it as needed from a liquid syrup that lasts a long time. By using different dilutions you can get many different types of development effects.It's a high quality, versatile developer that gives great results that are reliable and repeatable.
  4. Louis,
    I have seen HC-110 and I agree it is very inexpensive and super cheap in comparison, (12 bucks on B&H) However, nothing is cheaper than stuff I already own or don't have to pay shipping on.
  5. I use both. Some films don't like Caffinol.
  6. Rebecca
    Check out this group. All we do is mix and play with caffinol and other things we find local.
  7. If shelf-life and economy are major considerations then I'd also suggest Rodinal, whose longevity is legendary. I've used it for thirty years.
  8. Rebecca,
    Caffenol doesn't have good shelf life at all, if you mean the developer, and not the ingredients. If you mean the ingredients, lots of chemicals keep as well as coffee and vitamin C, and many are more economical, effective, and reliable, too. If you just like the idea of developing film in coffee, then nothing else will do, but if you're looking for a reliable developer that is economical and keeps well, you could do a lot better than coffee.
  9. Jay
    I recently mixed some caffenol-C and got 5 rolls over 3 weeks out of it.
  10. Do you have to use instant coffee? Or can it be dripped? Also, what about espresso? (I have a machine at home)
  11. It is the acid in it. This is why I use cheap instant. But any coffee that is not decaf or acid reduced works. A friend of mine even uses non roasted green coffee beans.
  12. So then, why not just use orange juice and sodium carbonate then?
  13. The sugar in OJ acts as a restrainer.
  14. I can't say for sure that it is not possible at all, but there are two other problems with the orange juice idea, aside from the possible restraining effect of the sugar previously mentioned. The first is that the concentration of vitamin-C just really isn't very high compared to what a developer needs. A glass of orange juice has something like 100mg of vitamin-C, whereas caffenol-C recipes usually call for grams of the stuff, not mg. One popular caffenol-C formulation says to use 16g/liter, for example.
    The other factor which occurs to me is that the acidity of orange juice is very high and I would think that even larger quantities of soda would be required to get the pH of the developer back up to a usable level.

    Edit: It is not just being an acidic incredient that makes it work. The acid in coffee which is thought to do the job for caffenol is caffeic acid. Both that and vitamin-c are developers by themselves and it is the combination of the two that makes caffenol-c a pretty good developer.
  15. A glass of orange juice has something like 100mg of vitamin-C, whereas caffenol-C recipes usually call for grams of the stuff, not mg.​

    But Caffenol also works very well without the vitamin C.
  16. Larry,

    Three weeks might be good shelf life for coffee, but it's not very good for any real developer. Any developer that won't last
    at least six months on the shelf doesn't have a good shelf life. Developers with very good shelf lives last years, not weeks.
  17. I know this Jay but the thing is I can mix up a new batch in a few minutes from ingredients that cost me less than a buck a liter. :)
  18. There are lots of better developers that meet that criteria, and have good shelf life.
  19. Caffenol is a good developer despite what others might say here. I've used crushed Vitamin C tablets before and it works but I can't recommend it because of the inconsistency of results. Go to a Vitamin Shoppe or GNC and get yourself some ascorbic acid powder--it's not that expensive.

    If you really want consistent results with Caffenol, make sure to get a weighing scale and not use recipes that call for teaspoons and tablespoons of ingredients. A little unpredictability can be good but it's probably something you don't want in a developer.
  20. Perry is right, and be sure to use photo grade coffee.
  21. Humor you have to love it. :)
  22. I was about to grade coffee?

    I guess I am going to have break down and order the stuff online, I'd rather not because I still have other things I need to buy. Namely a new developing tank and such... I did not however think of a scale. That is a good idea.
  23. Rebecca on the subject of what coffee I find the cheaper the better. I get mine from the $ store it says made in Mexico. I believe it has more Caffenic acid than the more refined versions. Decaff is the worst you could use. Oh and I got by without a scale for years. I got one when I wanted to get serious about mixing things up but I found that Caffenol is very forgiving.
  24. If you're truly worried about the cost then stick with Adonal (Rodinal). You can use it as a stand developer at very low dilution.

    As for coffee, Larry is correct--get the cheapest instant coffee you can find (not decaf).
    Jay just doesn't seem to like instant coffee, regardless of its grade. ;)
  25. Before any of you get the wrong Idea. Jay and I do get along .We just are 2 different people who reach a goal from separate roads and neighbor hoods.
  26. Larry is absolutely right-- I have immense respect for him, and truly appreciate his attitude towards his photography. And I was poking fun at Perry, as well -- couldn't resist!
    I think Coffee as a developer is a novelty, and doesn't deserve to be considered seriously, for lots of reasons.
  27. And now you will get to see where Jay and I disagree. :) He is the Main stream Preacher at that big Church on the corner downtown. I am the guy on a soapbox with a copy of Anchell and Troops in my hand on the other corner telling of the mystery of life. :)
  28. The Darkroom Cookbook has lots of very good developer formulas, but Caffenol isn't one of them. A developer as good as coffee can be made from almost anything, but can it compete with any of the very simple developers made from known developing agents? I don't think so. It might be more fun to use coffee as a developer, and that's fine, but one shouldn't confuse novelty with utility. Snake Oil salesmen always relied heavily on the "mysteries of life".
  29. Thanks, Lex! Fantastic!
    On the other hand:
  30. Laughing as Humor has been missing for a time here. I was wondering when Lex would show up. Yes Jay. I agree but I was always one to push the balloon from the inside just to see what if. And Snake oil is high in Omega 3 Fatty acids. :)
  31. I think we've gone beyond helping the original poster... that's fine and it's good to give and take some jokes every once and a while. But now we're getting into philosophical differences a little too deeply. I will now bow gracefully and exit out of this discussion.
    Keep an open mind--it's good for everyone.
  32. Perry me too. I gave a link to the OP for a place that deals only in making film developers from household protects. Also fixers and color developers made from stuff you can get at stores around most towns in the world.
    Enjoy folks. I see I am not ready for Prime Time.
  33. NOW brand makes powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid). No additives, cheaper than tablets and no grinding.
  34. I get ascorbic acid in bulk from my grocery co op.

    A word on using ascorbic acid in a staining developer: ascorbic acid is a developer at the pH of most coffee developers,
    but it plays other roles, as well. Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant, and works to both preserve the working solution and
    control the formation of image stain. I use ascorbic acid in Hypercat to control stain and preserve the working solution in
    amounts on the order of 0.01g/ liter. Some coffee recipes call for 16g/liter, or more! I wonder what these people believe
    the role of ascorbic acid in their developers to be? If they believe coffee and ascorbic acid are super additive, or additive,
    which is the primary developer, and which the secondary? Whatever they believe, there is a huge excess of developer in
    most of these recipes, based on the ascorbic acid content, alone, and ascorbic acid is among the more expensive
    developing agents, making a typical coffee + ascorbic acid developer much more expensive than a simple catechol
    developer, like Obsidian Aqua. there's a lot of room for improvement in these recipes.
  35. I think that ascorbate is superadditive with some primary developing agents at 2 different ascorbate concentrations based on my experiments with the following 5 solutions:
    Sodium Carbonate anh...............5g
    Sodium ascorbate.......0g, 0.05g, 0.2g, 0.5g, 10g.
    Water to .....................................1L
    The highest shadow speed was obtained at 0.2g/L ascorbate,tanning was similar to that with pyrocatechin alone. 0.5g/L gave the least shadow speed, but with 10g/L ascorbate the shadow speed increased again,with less tanning.I daresay caffeic acid in caffenol might be similar to pyrocatechin in its reaction with ascorbate.
    This result is consistent with the use of widely different concentrations of ascorbate between most staining developers and caffenol.
  36. Hi Alan,

    Hypercat contains catechol and ascorbic acid in a carbonate solution, so I'm pretty familiar with this class of developer. I
    don't quite agree with your conclusions. First, equal weights of ascorbic acid and catechol in a developer will result in a
    non-staining developer. I don't know how you're measuring tanning, but the staining and tanning mechanisms are very
    closely relate, and a decrease in stain indicates a corresponding decrease in tanning. Second, Obsidian Aqua, a water-
    based version of Hypercat, uses metabisulfite in place of ascorbic acid with identical working properties.

    I think your rising and falling and rising again activity with increased concentration of ascorbate can be explained by the
    effect on stain formation at low concentations, and by the ascorbate becoming active as a developer at higher
    concentrations, and/ or changes in pH. A simple additive/ super additive mechanism would not account for your results.

    Otherwise, I agree that ascorbic acid probably works the same way with coffee that it does with catechol-- by heaping on
    the ascorbic acid and carbonate, these recipes are essentially ascorbate/ carbonate developers, with a little coffee added

    My point was that since no one really knows what the developing agent(s) in coffee might be, or in what amounts they are
    present, ascorbic acid or sodium sulfite might act as a kind of indicator. By adding ascorbic acid or sodium sulfite to a
    coffee developer incrementally, until the stain disappears, we might establish an important correlation for compounding a
    more useful/ less wasteful coffee developer, whether or not stain is desired. I realize the ratio might not hold between
    brands of coffee, but it might establish a useful rule of thumb, which is about as much as we can hope for with this type of
  37. Hello Jay,
    I think we may agree that there are two peaks of activity, near (but not at) 100% pyrocatechin and 100% ascorbate in mixtures of the two.
    Ascorbate without any pyrocatechin gives virtually blank film (pH~10.7).There must be something in coffee ,usually quoted as caffeic acid,that is probably the primary developing agent regenerated by ascorbate. I cannot trace the origin of the attribution to caffeic acid or any verification.The actual composition of coffee appears complex from a quick search.
  38. hey jay
    i use green robusta beans that i either roast myself in a wok on the kitchen stove, or green.
    i make a pot of coffee and mix the washing soda and vit c and maybe 10cc or ansco 130 / L
    if i remember it. i never replenish or mix new or any of that. i use this coffee developer for
    both film and paper ( i just pour it back into the tupper ware container when i am done and re-use it)
    and i have gotten 6 months of use out of 2L. maybe 50 sheets /rolls of film and 50 sheets of photo paper went through it.
    the film was c41, e6 and b/w 135, 120 and 4x5, and the paper was hand coated, as well as RC+fiber.
    after about 6months, i remove half and mix in another L ...
    it doesn't really degrade as you suggest ...
    caffenol isn't for everyone, it tends to smell pretty bad.
    have fun!
  39. Hi John,
    That's quite a soup you brew, and doesn't really relate t my comments about coffee developers very directly. Your brew contains: hydroquinone, glycin, metol, ascorbic acid, and coffee, among other things. Ansco 130 is legendary for keeping properties, and it seems coffee, ascorbic acid, and some more carbonate are not enough to persuade it to die an early death. Try your developer sans 130, and see how long it lasts. My guess is -- not nearly as long.
    A while back I played around with quercetin and ascorbic acid in carbonate solution, and I think that combination has potential. The main problem is the quercetin I had was not very soluble. There's a more soluble version, but it's more expensive, and my curiosity was sufficiently satisfied by my tests with the less soluble stuff that I've not bothered to pony up for the soluble kind. That being said, even with the added expense of the soluble form of quercetin, that developer is less expensive than coffee developers that contain 16g/ liter of ascorbic acid and several teaspoons of coffee and carbonate, and, in my opinion, a much better developer, and at least as non-toxic. One interesting property of quercetin is that it is a very powerful antioxidant, and seems to preserve ascorbic acid. The developer I made lasted several months in a half full bottle.
    So, I have nothing against experimenting with non-traditional ingredients, but I don't consider every experiment that yields developed film a success.
  40. hi jay
    to be honest, half the time i forget to put the 130 in there,
    and the other half it is 2/3 a teaspoon of the developer ( 10cc )
    you really think 2/3 of a teaspoon of stock ansco 130 is preserving
    and keeping 2L of coffee &c useful for 6months ?
  41. Hi John,

    If it works without the 130, then the 130 cannot be responsible for your quite unexpected results. I don't know of another
    developer without sodium sulfite that keeps for months, except my ascorbic acid/ quercetin developer, consisting of two
    developers which are each also preservatives. And at 16g/ liter of ascorbic acid, that's a significant amount of
    preservative, albeit a very expensive one, and probably not as effective as much less expensive sodium sulfite.

    I'm just not convinced the coffee and/or ascorbic acid are doing anything for you that couldn't be done better and less
    expensively by something else, and that's my point. I suspect you'd be better off with the 130 alone.
  42. hi jay
    thanks for your thoughts ... I do add quite a bit of vit c, but i don't really measure any of my ingredients,
    i would guess it is around a 1/2 to 2/3 a baby food container ...
    the original recipe i use was the tablespoon/teaspoons, but i gave up on measuring
    any of the ingredients and just guesstimate/eyeball everything.
    seeing i make 32oz (1L ) at a time not 8oz and the counting of tsp/tbs got reallyold reallyfast .....

    i have used 130 alone as a film developer since around 2000.
    (aside from caf130 which i have been using for 5-6years)
    130 is pretty much the only developer i use
    like everything, YMMV since i use old stale green beans, and ingredients
    that might be a year or two old and ..

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