Caffenol problems?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by marios_lizides, Apr 17, 2014.

  1. Hello,
    Hope that someone can help me with this as I am going out of my mind! :)
    The first time I tried the Caffenol C-M recipe ( it worked like a charm. I got two beautifully developed films.
    Now the second and third time the films came out almost completely transparent. You can see a glimpse of what was photographed and the overexposed parts (black parts on film) are very soft on the touch, almost like gelatine and can be peeled away very easily. There were two films in the last tank I developed: The first one (Rollei Retro) came out fine, while the other (Ilford HP5 Plus) has the aforementioned problems.
    Attaching two images of the film.
    Does anyone have an idea of why this is happening? I appreciate your response.
    Attaching two images
  2. Caffenol-CM is for medium speed films, which explains why your Retro came out fine (provided it was a Rollei Retro 100) and your HP5 didn't, as latter is a 400 ISO speed film. You'll need to add a gram of potassium bromide to your recipe in order to develop 400 ISO and above.
  3. Thanks for your response Tom.
    Actually both were ISO400, but I believe the Retro is generally more forgiving.
    I will give a try on potassium bromide if I can find it. Any tips on where I can get it?
  5. Thank you Allen but I live in Europe.
    Anyone knows from where I can get chemicals to Europe?
    Was interested in tintype chemicals also.
  6. Anyone knows from where I can get chemicals to Europe?​
    Price list for above:
    There used also to be with cheap prices, but they recently changed their web page and I can't any more find the photo chemicals that were offered for sale.
    Good luck
  7. Hello everyone. Mario, I have experienced similar soft, gummy exposed areas with Kodak T films, both with coffee CCL mix and several Pyro developers. A second fixing of equal duration but with "fresh fixer" usually clears the problem. On the T films, the areas are close to pink in color when dried, and I believe this is another dye layer used in these films. Since the 80s is a totally different emulsion on a PET film base, it fixes and clears in under 3 minutes (my expierence). Ilford films are different. Try the 2nd fixing.
    If you refer to the Coffenol Blog site again, you will find data on how to use common Iodized table salt as the anti fogging agent vrs the KBr. Bill
  8. You don't need those chemicals. Just agitate 15-30 sec per minute. More agitation higher contrast. When developing two rolls 120 film directly after each other I use the same caffenol-M for 15 minutes in both both agitate more for the second and it always comes out with more contracts. Ilfor Rapidfix for 5 minutes with agitation 15-20 sec per minute.
    And a lot of water washing at least 10 min.
  9. That's because film emulsion is gelatine!
    And a moderately strong alkali, like washing soda, has a softening effect on gelatine. If you leave a film in a strong solution of warm washing soda the emulsion will dissolve right off.

    If you want consistent results, then stop playing about with kitchen-sink recipes and buy a bottle of HC-110 or T-Max developer.

    How would you respond to a post like this?
    "I've been messing about with saltpetre, sulfur and charcoal. The first time I got a nice rocket that shot off into the sky. Next time I tried it, I blew my hand off. What could possibly have gone wrong??"
  10. Caffenol is a FUN developer if you are serious about following strictly the chemistry mixing and developing times. It only took about 2 months for me to "zero" both using the data from Rheinhold's blog site. Results were excellent for all films I tried. I just got bored with it. . . too much hassle to do a roll. . ans it STINKS ! So, I went back to my cathecol - pyro staining mixes. EZ Pize now. Aloha, Bill
    ] and Dave Luttmann like this.
  11. And how many wasted films Bill?

    The point is that an off-the-shelf developer just works, after only 5 minutes spent reading the instructions.

    I guess one person's 'FUN' is another's frustrating waste of time.:rolleyes:
  12. Must say though Joe , a year or so ago I got the ingredients , real ascorbic acid , digital scale etc. and got good results
    right off the get go .Must be my age , but I don't find the aroma offensive :) . But it's sure a lot quicker to use HC-110.
    To each his own , Regards, Peter
  13. Joe, over the span of about 4 years, only two rolls were "duds" with the caffenol developers espoused by Rheinhold at his blog. Over 50 rolls, a mix of 35mm & 120, are now in my negative books and on thumb drives for the computer. As I mentioned, when using this developer, one needs to follow good techniques. I used the same brand
    of instant coffee, photo grade ascorbic acid and sodium carbonate, with all dry measurements with a 0.01gram digital scale. Since the mid 70's I have been making my
    developers DIY, so caffenol was just another curiosity for me. You might notice that all my current postings have pyro staining developers listed, these all being DIY.
    Granted it is very easy today to find decent, boxed developers and the Net allows getting the various times for developing.
    But sometimes I just want to have FUN !
    robertgiles and Dave Luttmann like this.
  14. There are many excellent developers ready made and many receipts for good developers when you have some equipment to make. Also in Caffenol you can make some valid improvements. But indeed it is a stinky type developer. About speed: Any liquid type is fast in a quick and with good results when it is fresh.
  15. As a former fan of another photographic website, I can attest that there was a fanatic caffenol pusher there. The guy was a whackjob. Sorry, no caffenol for me. Snake oil. Use a legitimate developer. If coffee was a reliable developer, Eastman Kodak would have sold it. They had chemical engineers there who were the worldwide standard on reliable, quality chemistry. Have you ever heard of Kodak Caffenol? No. The whole idea is ridiculous.Kodak, and other firms invented or marketed fine "wheels", so you don't have to re-invent them. I wouldn't waste another second of my time on that caffenol foolishness.
  16. There are probably hundreds of published formulas for developers that are reliable and work better than caffenol.
  17. I'll go out on a limb and assume you haven't tried it. :)

    If you want consistently near perfect photos without all the fuss of mixing developers, then shoot digital. But if you enjoy that aspect of photography then it is kind of fun to mess with caffenol and you do get good results. If you can follow a recipe, you can successfully process film with caffenol.

    Is it better than Kodak's offerings? Generally no, but there are some advantages. One problem for many commercial developers is shelf life. It's not an issue if you shoot enough film, but if shooting film is just an occasional hobby, you can end up wasting a lot of chemicals. With Caffenol, you mix up as much as you need. Of course there's HC-110 and similar products but honestly I don't know that my photos turned out any better with HC-110 than Caffenol.

    The other supposed advantage to Caffenol I don't think is really true anymore. The whole idea was to come up with something that people could develop film with using ingredients they'd find around their home. At least in the US, not many people use instant coffee anymore, nor do they have washing soda. In fact depending on where you live, washing soda might be pretty hard to find. Same with the type of Vitamin-C that's recommended. Still, the ingredients are pretty simple to come by overall and not expensive. Many home-brew developers that might give better results require chemicals that you don't find just anywhere, are more toxic, and you might have to purchase them in amounts that would make one think twice.

    I don't use Caffenol anymore but I'd never talk anyone out of it that wants to try it. In fact I'd encourage people to if they're interested at all.
  18. The chemical problem is real; it's getting harder and harder for the average person to get what are become fairly exotic chemicals for some of the odder developers. Photographer's Formulary is the best source for many things, and the only source for some. I got my PPD from Photographer's Formulary and the "magic" was combining it with ascorbic acid from (I think) either a heath food or pet product place.
  19. For those looking for either Ascorbic Acid (Vit C) or Sodium Carbonate, vendors on Ebay are common. Package sizing runs from 100 grams into the multi kilogram range. If you are into the staining pyro developers, Formulary is the best source of some DIY chemicals, but if you only need a small quantity, their PMK-Pyro kit or the liquid Pyrocat mixes are the best buy. Google searches for component chemicals USUALLY point you to other sources. Pricing ? All over the park ! Aloha, Bill
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
  20. There are easier to obtain recipes that don't use ascorbic acid or an ascorbate.

    If you want a reliable 'household ingredients' formula; you can make a Rodinal substitute from Paracetamol (Actetaminophen) tablets, sodium metabisulphite (food/wine preservative) and caustic soda.

    I've posted the method and amounts needed a few times if anyone cares to look for it. The stock solution will keep for years, just like Rodinal.

    P.S. I tried the above Rodinal substitute with the addition of sodium ascorbate. It seemed to make little difference to either the grain or development time.

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