Develop black and white film at home with Caffenol

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by mark_stephan|2, May 27, 2019.

  1. If you develop your own b&w film I suggest you watch this video @ . Caffenol is coffee and is used as developer. With the exception of fixer you can develop your film with household products. After watching the video go to the link for the Caffenol Bible, it's loaded with great stuff. Once I get a few things (tanks, thermometer and such) I plan to give it a try.
  2. Watching the first two minutes of the video bored me to death. . like most U Tube productions. Skip it and put your computer over to ( ). A German fellow (Rhinehold) started the blog during the early days of caffinol developing & brought it some sense of science. He developed and used "formulas", not the then spoons & whatever was in the kitchen most people were putting out. 2k18-2k7-051 006 ce bc sqr r.jpg
    Dig into his blog starting at the beginning and work forward. Read up & then get the "Bible", which he contributed too.
    I worked with Caffenol, using various formulas of his, for about 5 years. When done right, beautiful, full scaled negatives. Gobs of film emulsions to work with. The only reason I do not use caffenol these days is my pyro staining developers produce the same results with less "hassel".
    Make some good coffee for those times you are developing your film, use the instant for the film.
    Here is a frame from 2007 in caffineol. YashicaMat 124 & FP-4. Enjoy, Bill
  3. Fun !

    I played around with Caffenol a few years ago and was happy with the results. Was a little unsure about it for faster speed film though, and it does take awhile to mix up, - especially since I have vitamin-c tablets which I have to bust up. So now I'm using HC-110 though I may go back at some point. I have a life-time supply of ingredients.



    Kind of an ironic thing about Caffenol was that it was created with the idea that you could find the ingredients at your neighborhood store. It's not so easy to find washing soda or even instant coffee anymore.
  4. No lack of Folgers Instant (my caffinol brand) nor the 5# box of Arm & Hammer washing soda at my local WalMart. A pound of pure Vit C is less than $10 on Ebay. Bill
  5. Sure, but I don't really think of Walmart as a neighborhood store, though it might be the closest store for some. I had to go to 3 different places to find washing soda. When Caffenol was created, the ingredients were not only easily found in local stores, there's a good chance that they were already in your home.

    But times have changed. To be fair, it was a lot easier to go out and buy photographic chemicals 25 years ago too. ;)

    I'm not knocking Caffenol and may go back to it, but I wanted to start shooting some faster film. I knew I could add Potassium Bromide to the recipe but I also knew that I could buy a bottle of HC-110 for $30 that would last me a very long time and would be quicker to mix.

    I still make my own stop bath with vinegar and water.
    Last edited: May 27, 2019
  6. After 180 years of chemical photography, you'd think that something as simple as agitation would have been sorted out.
    Apparently not!

    We get shown slo-mo agitation, pointless figure-of-eight wrist gymnastics, and now rapid-action tank-tipping that hardly gives any time for the solution to move before the tank is righted again. You're agitating a tank of developer not mixing a cocktail!

    Jeez! It's really simple once you get your head round the idea that inversion agitation depends on air bubbling through the spiral. Just turn the tank upside-down fairly quickly - no wrist callisthenics required - WAIT for the air space to bubble through the film, then right the tank. Do this twice and the job's done for another minute or thirty seconds. What's so difficult to get right?

    Of course, you need some air in the tank in the first place, so don't overfill the tank either.

    These YouTube destructional videos should come with a health warning!
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
  7. Please pardon my confusion. - What is the shelf time of instant coffee for developing purposes? Does it work (not taste!) less well, after the "best before" date?
    Sorry to bother you all with that dumb question. Here in Germany there is a heavy luxury tax on that stuff so importing "life time supplies" (50 200g glasses per run would be legal) becomes quite interesting. Hauling less wouldn't be worth my gas & effort
  8. I was mostly joking since I now have more instant coffee and washing soda than I'll ever use, plus a giant jar of vitamin-C tablets. And it's important to know that in a good year I might only shoot a dozen rolls of B&W film. Most of my pictures are digital and I also shoot color film.

    However... instant coffee theoretically can be frozen and used indefinitely, - for drinking. I would assume the same is true for developing film but I'm not 100% sure. I personally am not a coffee drinker so I won't test that part of the theory.

    If and/when I get back to using caffenol for processing film, I'll test my supply on something I don't care about first.

    I have to say that the notion of instant coffee being a luxury item is an interesting one. :)

    Do you also pay a luxury tax on traditional developing chemicals?
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
  9. Jochen, my bottle of Folgers Instant must be at least 7 yrs old. I keep it in my Hawaii apartment for when my brother visits from the Big Island. He is not a coffee snob like me, just wants a jolt of caffine in the morning. I develop my Rollei 80s primarily in the caffinenol mix. Tropical weather in the Islands requires the soda be transferred to a plastic container from the cardboard box. Like wise the bulk vitamin C. The containers are sealed tight with 2 wraps of black electrical tape. Bill

  10. Bill, which Pyro variant(s) are you using? 510 looks like it has a lot of nice qualities, - including long shelf life.
  11. Household chemicals include sodium thiosulphate. I bought 5kg at the pool shop. It is used by public pools to lower chlorine. They thought I was going to all the pools in the state! :) Fish tanks too.
    To speed things up I add ammonium sulphate from the garden section of the hardware store and add about 50/50 to get my ersatz fast fixer.
  12. I've always seen alternative processes(and I lump caffenol in that category) as having their place for experimenting, but it kills me to see people trying to jump head-first into B&W using something like it.

    Around here, a packet of D76 to make 1 gallon is under $10. Mix it up(it's hard to get wrong-buy a brown Datatainer bottle preferably, but the average American home has no shortage of empty 1 gallon containers) and you have 2-6 months of developer that you KNOW is going to work correctly. Get your film handling and processing down with that, since if there's a problem you can rule out the chemicals(barring something like fixing before developing). Once you've mastered that, experiment to your heart's content.

    As a side note, Rodeo Joe posited a while back that it's not caffeine, but rather caffeic acid that serves as the active developing agent. Looking at the structures when he suggested that, it made sense to me, so I set up a quick and dirty experiment. I took two beakers and set them each on a stir plate. Each one got some sodium carbonate and a few crystals of silver iodide. The AgI, of course, didn't dissolve, but rather sat on the bottom of the beaker. I then put some caffeine in one, and caffeic acid in the other. The caffeic acid one almost immediately had the AgI turn black(indicating reduction to metallic silver) while the caffeine one did nothing. I let the caffeine one sit for a few hours, added more caffeine, and still had the same result. A small amount of caffeic acid added once again just as quickly reduced the AgI to Ag.

    That's a quick and dirty experiment, but it's an easy way to visualize what's happening in the film emulsion.
  13. I generally agree but what I will say is that using Caffenol at this point really isn't experimenting in terms of getting acceptable results if you're not extremely demanding and it's pretty easy to mix all things considered. It just takes a little time. I think the best argument you can make against it is that it's impossible to know that that you're getting exactly consistent amounts of active ingredient from one lot of instant coffee to the next and the same with vitamin c and washing soda. Washing soda usually has some amount of water in it.

    I screwed up my first attempt at D76 where I likely would not have with Caffenol. How did I mess up? I developed at mixing temp. Would not have happened with Caffenol. ;)
  14. "Vitamin C" as an ingredient isn't specific enough. It comes in two main forms; pure Ascorbic acid, and Sodium Ascorbate salt. Knowing which form you've got is quite important.

    The two forms differ greatly in pH value and pure Ascorbic acid will neutralise a quantity of Sodium Carbonate. Unless the neutralised soda is taken into account, the final pH of the solution may be too low to act as a developer. OTOH, if the quantity of soda is correct for Ascorbic acid, then the activity of a developer using the Ascorbate salt will be too high, and result in overdevelopment.

    The form of 'vitamin C' should be stated on the packaging. Unless you buy it in tablet form, which isn't recommended, since it'll contain bulking agents, gum and other unwanted rubbish.

    BTW, I didn't realise that thiosulphate was used for swimming pool buffering. We don't have many private pools here in the UK, so pool supply stores are a bit thin on the ground.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2019
  15. Experimenting is always fun and sometimes interesting. There are still folks that making tin-type and Daguerreotypes
  16. Hello everyone. Tom, my "adventures" in pyro developers started in the early 90's with Hutchins PMK-Pyro developer. A different world appeared with its brown-green staining. All work then was wet lab. I continued with the pmk-pyro until around 2010 when I started "experimenting" with caffenol, adopting Rheinholds formulas because they had standard gram/liter measurements & were consistant, plus I picked up on the 510-Pyro formulation when my dermatitis to the Metol in PMK forced me to put that mix down.
    When my house / wet lab burned in 2015, I needed a developer quickly and hit upon Jay DeFahr's mix of Obsidian Aqua (OA). Simple & quick to a DIY person, and similar staining results. Currently I am working with DeFahrs Hypercat, which is almost the identical formulation as OA, but uses proplane glycol as the liquid. I suspect the OA does not like being in Hawaii, as it oxidizes too quickly. . perhaps it's my salt air environment living almost on the beach !
    If one wants to "experiment" with any of these mixes, the formulas can be used for a 100 ml batch vrs the standard 1 liter mix. My 0.01g scale ($10) does a nice job with the smaller weights.
    I have had excellent results from all these Pyro developers and only keep a half filled bottle of Rodinol around simply because it last forever. . mines is 2013. Bill

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