My Caffenol Experiment

The Ingredients

Over the years I’ve read and seen much about Caffenol, but never tried it – today was the day! Anyone that has ever bulk loaded film will know that quite often you end up with a short length at the end – mine turned out to be a 17 exposure! Somewhat appropriately, I had breakfast with a coffee at out local garden centre, and shot through it, as an experiment.

For those who have never heard of it, basically the idea in a nutshell, is that film is developed in coffee – it’s not quite as simplistic as that, but not far off! I read a couple of recipe’s online and then made up my own variation (by accident). All the online recipe’s are for a litre, I only had a short length in my 1 reel tank so 500ml was more than enough, I simply halved all the ingredients, except I forgot with the coffee!

One of the sites online I looked at was very precise, but it struck me that there are an awful lot of un-knowns. It’s the particular acid in the coffee that acts as the developer, there is more of it in the cheaper coffee beans than the more expensive “arabica” beans, so the general advice is to use the cheapest “rich” coffee that you can find. It’s all very well giving an exact recipe for how much to use, but if you have no idea how much of the acid is in the coffee per gram, it can only be guidance. That’s my technical excuse for forgetting to half the amount of coffee! Like wise the washing Soda, crystals have much more water/less soda per gram, than powder. I was expecting large crystals when I opened my pack, but was surprised by how small they seemed to be – looked almost like a powder! How did that effect the quantity? Originally I brought some vitamin-c tablets, I tried drinking one dissolved in water, and to my surprise it actually tasted nice – they are still quite low mg per tablet, so rather than use 8 tablets I brought some pure vitamin-c powder from Amazon.

So for the record my recipe was: 40g of the cheap and cheerful coffee shown above, mixed with about 100ml of warm water. 50g of the powdery washing soda crystals shown above, dissolved in another 100 (ish) ml’s of water. Both need to be very well mixed and dissolved. These were combined and the solution topped up to the 500ml level. At that point I added 10gm of the Vitamin-C powder. At this point I was politely informed that I ever try this experiment again I should go outside! I have a very poor sense of smell – apparently this stinks of fish and potash!

The mix!

From here on in I did the same as usual, general consensus is 10 mins at 20Ā° is about right. That’s what I did. Then two rinses of water, and in the the usual Ilford fix. To my surprise… good negs!!

To continue the experimental “home” phase, my last wash was not with Ilford wetting agent, but a tiny amount of Fairy Washing Up Liquid.

So what results?? …….

In summary I’m pleased with the results. Would I do it again? Probably not. To be honest when one considers the cost of the three ingredients, the carbon footprint of getting them, the packaging, the effort (and apparently the smell), I can’t really see much of a saving in cost either environmentally or monetary. It’s a fun experiment, I might do a couple more rolls for fun to use up that nasty coffee. After that good old Ilfosol looks at lot less bother and easier for consistency.

Apparently one can develop photographic paper in Beer….

3 thoughts on “My Caffenol Experiment

    1. Hello! My understanding is that it is the acid in the coffee that is the developer, the vitamin-c is the “balancer” toning down in “harshness” by slowing down the development time a bit. My reading on the internet sees some people being very precise, about ingredients that are not! What I’m basically saying, is that without much experience, my belief is that the system will work without vitamin-c but much better with. The closer you can get to the usual recipes, the closer you will get to the repeatable results like “proper” developer (if that’s what you want!). A few vitamin-c supplement tablets, will be better than no vitamin-c! Hope that helps? It’s a fun experiment! All best wishes, Andy

      Liked by 1 person

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