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Browsing around the web recently, I came across
a community of photographers who make their own black and white film developer out of
coffee and vitamin C, which they call “caffenol.” Now, I couldn’t quite believe it at first,
so I had to try it for myself. Here’s how to do it. First let’s take a look at what you need.
You’ll need a film development tank and reel, which you can get from a photo shop
that sells darkroom supplies, a can opener, some measuring cups and spoons, and a pair
of scissors. For materials, you’ll need instant coffee,
vitamin C powder, washing soda, which is also called soda ash. You can find it at a pool
supply store or online. Some room temperature water, it doesn’t have to be distilled,
some photo fixer, which can also be found in a photo shop with darkroom supplies, dishwashing
detergent and some clothespins. Oh that’s right, and an exposed roll of
film. I wouldn’t recommend using this method for taking photos at an important event unless
you’ve tested it thoroughly. So for your sister’s wedding, I’d stick with your
trusty digital camera. Any of the more uncommon items, such as the
development tank, reel, washing soda and fixer are all very inexpensive and can be found
online if you don’t have a store that sells them locally. The first step is to get the film out of the
canister, which must be done in absolute darkness. So find a windowless room in your home and
tape up any light leaks around the door. I’m going to be doing it in daylight for demonstration
purposes only. Use your can opener to pop off the bottom
of the film canister and remove the film. Cut the tapered end off the roll. If you’re
using plastic reels like this one, you’ll insert the end of the film where the tabs
are and feed it through with your fingers. Then you’ll rotate the flanges of the reel
back and forth to draw the film through it. At the end, you’ll cut the film at the core
and feed the rest of the film into the reel. Insert your reel into the tank. This tank
takes two reels, but I’ll use only one for film. Then put the top on. Now you can turn
the lights back on since the film is protected from the light. Let’s make the developer now. In 6 ounces
of water, mix 5 teaspoons of instant coffee. Do not use decaffeinated. It just won’t
work. Then add a half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder
to that solution and stir. In another cup of 6 ounces of water, mix three
and a half teaspoons of washing soda. After it has dissolved, mix the solutions together. Be warned, this solution has an absolutely
foul stench. In fact, it smells worse than a garbage can of rotten Limburger cheese inside
the Holland Tunnel. Set the developer aside to make the fixer.
The bottle you get will have a concentrated solution, so check the packaging to see how
much water to add. This particular brand calls for 3 parts water for one part fixer. So I’ll
take 9 ounces of water and pour in enough fixer to bring it to 12 ounces. The next step is to pour the developer into
the tank and start a timer. The film should sit in the developer for about nine minutes.
Seal the top and agitate the developer for the first minute. You can see that I am not
only flipping the tank upside down and back, but I’m also giving it a quarter turn each
time. After the first minute, agitate the developer three times every minute. Give it
a tap on the table to loosen up any bubbles that may form on the emulsion. After nine minutes, quickly pour out the developer.
Thne rinse the film after the caffenol is poured out. Pour in water, agitate three or
four times, and dump it. Repeat this rinse step twice more. Now pour in the fixer from before. Let it
sit for five minutes, agitating three times each minute. You don’t have to dump the fixer down the
drain since it’s reusable, at least for a little while. Now you’ll rinse the film
four times, agitating the water in the tank more and more each time. On the fourth rinse,
add a drop of dishwasher detergent, which ensures the film dries spot-free. After you’ve dumped out the water, open
the tank and remove the film. Hang it from a string or clothesline to dry. This particular
negative turned out really dark, due to being in the developer for too long. The first time I tried this, I had the film
in the developer for 12 minutes, and got the dark negative on top. I then tried 8 minutes,
and you can see that it looks much better on the negative below that. The temperature
of the developer is also a factor, so keep that in mind when you’re tweaking your method. Here are some scans from the negatives. As
you can see, even the over developed negative can produce an image, albeit a very grainy
one. This image was developed for eight minutes
and shows a much finer grain and more contrast. Here are a few more of my test images. So I admit, I was skeptical about this homemade
film developer called “caffenol,” but it actually works, and quite a bit better
than I expected, actually. Now, if you’ve ever tried any of the online recipes that
are out there, post your favorite in the comments and post your caffenol photographs to the
MAKE Flickr pool. Until next time, so long!

100 thoughts on “How-To: Develop Film with Coffee and Vitamin C (Caffenol)

  1. http://www.boots.com/en/Emergen-C-Super-Orange-Sachets-with-sweetener-8-x-9.8-g_1507614/?cm_mmc=bmm-_-google-_-PLAs-_-Boots%20Shopping%20-%20Category%20-%20Health%20and%20Pharmacy

    Do you think this would work as vitamin powder if I crushed them up??

  2. Okay, thanks for the clear video. Well done.
    Now, would you be willing to do a video on processing Black and White 8mm (double 8) movie film? Such as: "Fomapan R100 Black and White Transparency Film (Double Standard 8mm, 32.8' Roll)." I've been all over the internet looking for instructions for the past couple of weeks and nobody covers this in a clear manner. After watching your video here, I think you could do it. Thousands of hobbyist 8mm people would be very thankful. Thousands of people have old vintage 8mm movie cameras they'd love to use but who can't afford those sky-high development costs from online processors. Thanks

  3. Five minutes fixing time is waaaaaay too long for Ilford Rapid Fixer. More like two minutes. In fact most films only take thirty seconds to clear in Rapid Fixer and many people generally recommend the film fixing time to be at least twice the clearing time and then a bit more to make sure. So two to three minutes in fresh fixer is more like it. And, by the way, Ilford Rapid Fixer dilutes per instructions to 1+4 for film fixing, which means ONE part fixer to FOUR parts water.
    Also, leave the film leader sticking out! It's then obvious how to proceed with spiral-loading with relatively little fuss. If you oops! and retract the film, there is a gadget that will retrieve it for you.
    Lastly, the black center post is designed so that the wide flange goes at the bottom, not the top. If you look at the inside bottom of the tank, you'll notice a shallow round depression into which the flange sits, forming a light seal there.

  4. Uh…yeah I get it. I get what your doing here, but for the money you spent buying all of those products, you could have went to Walmart and had your pictures developed.

  5. blow up poster in the background. jimmy page and jeff beck were in that movie (and the rest of the yardbirds).

  6. Do you have to develop the film yourself then get it printed out? Or do you just take the roll to a store and get it developed?

  7. your test is underfixed, not underdeveloped that is why it looks dark. see the edges. they should be full transparent.
    More time on fixer, that is what you need.

  8. Great video of this easy to do developing method!

    In my experience, a stop bath is necessary as the little washing shown will not remove all of the developer in the emulsion and it will continue to do its thing. googling DIY stop bath and fixer shows vinegar for stop bath and salt or ammonia for fixer.

  9. It's cool but Kodak HC110 can cost as little as 50 to 20 cents a roll to process. So I'd rather use that instead. Will give it a try tho.

  10. What is washing soda or soda ash? I don't live in the United States so products are not the same. Don't forget internet is worldwide. What brand of coffee? The brand shown is not available here. Please clarify these issues. Also, the Caffenol will develop any BW film no matter brand or ISO? Thanks!!!

  11. hey can you help me, i want to overexpose by 4 stops how do i do this? im using expired film does it mean i should let it sit longer in the chemical?

  12. DIY for pinhole photography on the cheap:

    make baking soda into washing soda by baking it
    use crushed vitamin c tablets
    buy dollar store coffee
    use water or vinegar as a stop bath
    and ammonia as a fixer
    and buy photo paper online

  13. Huh! I always put the column through my reels the other way around with the large flange at the bottom of the dev tank. I think I'm going to continue to do so! Good to know that the tank doesn't seem to care though.

  14. when ever i put the coffee in the water it only half dissolves and it's half coffee, half bits of coffee. should i filter it, or just keep it that way?

  15. I develop constantly with Caffenol its amazing the dynamic range is mind blowing !!!! check my instagram for results @andres.cuervo.art

  16. Equipment recommendations and teaching people how to load film in the same tutorial as an alt process like caffenol? ok.

  17. if i don't get vitamin C powder can i crush the tablets to powder and use that instaead? Thanks for your help in advance.

  18. This is half true since the fixer liquid is needed. Also the concentration of caffein and vitamin C varies with every brand. So many tests are needed for perfect results.
    I hope there is an alternative method for the fixer.
    For lowering the cost is better to use bulk 100 feet films and reusable rolls.

  19. Next cover home made fixer – I believe ammonium thiosulphate or sodium thiosulphate will both work at a pinch, but knowing common product names in which to get them would be good.

  20. It works. I used Fomapan 200. I had a somewhat more vigorous agitation routine (15 seconds at the start of every minute), and I found when the developing phase was finished that there were coffee coloured bubbles everywhere (probably from my vigorous agitations), so I did stop-bath agitation-rinses until they ran clear. Fixing was for three minutes in Ilford Rapid fix, 1 part fix to 4 parts water (the leader took only 40 seconds to clear, but I wanted to be certain), with the same agitation.

    I fixed for 12 minutes and it didn't come out dark. I noticed you seemed to be using 100-speed film in this video; I suspect the extra speed is happy with substantial extra time.

    Couldn't have done it without your help. This vid makes it look easy. And it was.

  21. Theoretically you can use many substances to develop the film, but fixing should be done with conventional fixer only

  22. Anyone else try this and get nothing but blank film with water splotches on them? No? I'm just a failure? Ok…..

  23. And for Fixing you can use simple Vinegar… I have done it it works, and I figure it out by myself just by smelling it! XD

  24. I have no idea why people came up with this when the developer, bath, fixer, water is cheap to start with. The only thing I can think of is that they are not active photographers since those will expire and caffenol materials will last as long as you want them to premix.

  25. Update – I used this stuff for Tmax 400. The Massive Development Chart recommends 25 minutes, and they are not wrong. It took me three goes to get it right. At 15 minutes the images were anaemic and hardly there; at 20 they are half passable but still very pale. At 25, the negs look almost indistinguishable from commercial developer.

  26. how to develop color film at home? i want to try because on my place it's hard to find place that still develop film

  27. He's made a CRITICAL mistake when assembling the development tank at 1:59. He inserts the the centre collar into the spools and tank with the falange on top. However it needs to be on the bottom, as this is what keeps light from reaching the film inside the tank.

  28. I was taught not to dump film developer down the drain due to the film having a chemical on it that is not really good for the environment once it's in the water systems

  29. What software do you recommend for reversing a 8mm film developed negative? I don't need a complex software, just enough to flip the image and reverse it. Thanks

  30. Sir, I would like to ask you to answer my question. If I use bean-ground coffee (not soluble), I must add an extra job to filter out the coffee grounds while the ratio of coffee to water is 1: 1. Will be the same as instant coffee?
    Look forward to your reply, thank you very much. 😀

  31. So hang on… hang on… just a minute… hang on… just a second…

    So, you went the supermarket to buy coffee, the health store to buy vitamin C powder, and the pool supply store to buy the soap. All bought in bulk, and can't imagine the vitamin C powder being cheap.

    Then you went the photo store and walked right on by the developer… which would have cost less than the above and is made to do the job… and bought fixer?

    Why?

  32. If you're going to use photo fixer, why not just purchase the developer to go with it? Now if you could show me a video where film is developed using household items only, that would be cool! But if you're going to use film photo fixer, might as well just buy the developer to go with it.

  33. Also the film looks fogged not over developed. That is why it is dark around the sprocket holes. Was the centre column of the tank the wrong way up?

  34. It's important to put the large end of the center post down. It's part of the light trap and if you put it upside-down like you did, light can reach your film. I've seen it happen to some of my students.

  35. I read in a book that it doesn't mater if the negatives are dark or not, that can be sorted out in the enlarger stage.

  36. You don’t need dishwashing detergent if you have a sale spinner. I’ve never gotten any spots using a salad spinner. And basically dries the film at the same time.

  37. Зачем вы ограничили перевод на другие языки?
    Я этого не заметил. и я делюсь переводом на русский в комментариях.

    Why did you limit the translation to other languages?
    I did not notice this. and I'm sharing the translation into Russian in the comments.

    Недавно просматривая веб-сайты, я наткнулся на сообщество фотографов, которые делают свой собственный черно-белый проявитель пленки из кофе и витамина С, которые они называют «Кофенолом».
    /статья есть на Википедии/

  38. Which chemical is the active ingredient from the coffee? Cafeine? And the brown developer doesn't stain the negative? Oh I just found the answer… "The chemistry of caffenol developers is based on the action of the reducing agent caffeic acid (which is chemically unrelated to caffeine)."

  39. take the pieces of your film, which you cut off and put them into a glass. fill your glass with fixer and you can see how long the fixer needs.

  40. You goddamn Americans……! Look up the OFFICIAL FORMULAS and use the damn METRIC system for measuring up solids, they should be WEIGHED using GRAMS and MILLIGRAMS, not scooped up and measured by using "teaspoons"!

    No wonder people have a bad experience with caffenol, when you insist of using this shitty US system for measuring ingredients.

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