DSC_0875  Caffenol. A beginners guide Part 1

A little background:

When I first read a while ago that you could develop black and white film using coffee I was fascinated. It’s difficult to get hold of chemicals for film development here in Norway; you just can’t go to your local camera shop and buy a liter of your favorite brand. It’s not the eighties anymore.
When I read that you could get most of the basic ingredients at any local supermarket (Even a Norwegian one) I was hooked. This is not meant as a comprehensive guide just a primer. I’ll provided some links at the end so you may read further about Caffenol and all the possibilities that are available and how best to tackle different brands of film.

Where to start:
Without getting too advanced to begin with the best way to start is with a 100 ASA black and white film. So this is what I’ll be describing from this point onwards.
You’ll need some basics which if you have developed a film yourself before you probably already have lying around unused because you went digital a while ago. :0)

• 1. A developing tank. I use a standard Patterson tank.
• 2. Some measuring jugs 1 liter will be a good start
• 3. A small scale to weigh your ingredients out with I used an electronic kitchen scale until I purchased a small fine scale.
• 4. A good thermometer.

The Ingredients.
Get down to the local supermarket and buy of the following.

Instant coffee: A jar of the cheapest granulated. For some reason the cheapest works the best don’t buy the mild smooth blends go for the strong blends.

Vitamin.C :Ascorbic acid. It’s used in jam making and if you can’t find it with the herbs and spices (It’s called Askobinsyra in Sweden sold by Santa Maria) the Chemist will have it. Don’t buy Vitamin C tablets and crush them as they contain saccharine and are useless for the job.

Washing Soda Sodium carbonate water free powder and not crystals. Here in Norway I use Stabil from Menu.

Part 2 will explain how you put it all together to develop your film.


Part Two : Homemade soup.

The following is how I developed my first film in Caffenol a readily available Kodak T-MAX 100 asa.

Welcome back from the shops :0) Part two and time to have some more fun. You have shot off your film and are ready to make your first batch of Caffenol.

This method produces a fine scannable negatives . I have never tried to use an enlarger with them as I no longer have access to one.

Recipe for 1 liter Caffenol-C-M, means for medium fast 100 ASA films (adjust yourself for other quantities)

1. 1 liter water

2. 54 grams washing soda

3. 16 grams vitamin-C

4. 40 grams coffee

Proceed as follows.

1. Fill a jug with  one litre of water at around 18 degrees C. or 64 F. (The temperature will rise due the chemical reaction.)

2. Add your washing soda and stir until all is dissolved and the water is clear.

3. Add the Vitamin C and stir once more until the water is clear.

4. Then add your coffee and stir.

5. Then leave it for a while. Some reaction time is needed. I usually leave it as long as it takes me to go down stirs to the cellar and load my film into the tank.

6. Check the temperature and adjust it with a water bath until you have 20 degrees C (68F).


For Kodak T-max I used the following times and inversions. Develop for 15 minutes at 20 °C.,

  1. Pour in your solution and Agitate for first 30 seconds then 3 times each minute.
  2. I use plain water at 20 degrees as a stop bath agitate for one minute Then pour it out.
  3. I then fixed my film with standard T-Max fix for the recommended time 5 minutes.
  4. Rinse was in plain water at 20 degrees for 10 mins.
  5. I let my negatives air dry for 5 hours (Depending on ambient temperature) before scanning.

Congratulations.  You should now have your first film developed in Caffenol.

Just to show what you can expect if you have followed these instruction here is an example from my first roll I developed in Caffenol



30 thoughts on “Caffenol

    1. Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. Caffenol is a great fun way to develop a black and white film. If I can do it so can anyone :0)

  1. I’ve never done this, but it sure beats the hell out of chemical prices in New Zealand. I have a question, your scanned images are very clean, is this down to the quality of the scan or post production? I am genuinely impressed with smoothness of the images you post.

    1. Thanks for the compliments. I’m a bit fussy about dust and scratches.I don’t take shots that really suit that style with visible dust etc. I get lots of at times. I have lifted the glass plate on my Epson and cleaned the glass from the inside That helps however not all dust can be avoided then I use Apertures repair function. I never do it with an automatic function in the scanning SW I like to do it myself that way I have more control. This only works if you don’t scan many negatives. I don’t use Epson SW I prefer Silverfast SW. I think the results are better.Caffenol is a lot of fun .Everyone should try it :0)
      I may not have mentioned that the sample shot above was taken on expired T-max 100 and shot with a Summilux 90mm f 2.0 APO ASPH (One of the best lenses ever made IMHO that may account the the creaminess.

      Thanks for stopping by

      Cafenol is a lot of fun .Everyone should try it :0)

  2. Fantastic article, very informative. I’ve always wondered about caffenol, being a traditional T-Max Developer, D76 and HC-110 user and not really venturing out beyond those three. I’d certainly want to try this, especially with the amazing results you have shown. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Thanks For stopping by Sam. My advice .Try it just not on a film thats important to begin with. T-Max responds well to caffenol My first ever roll was 100asa several years out of date . I shot at 50 ASA. And developed in Caffenol as described here. That picture of my daughter at the bottom is one of the results.Try it its fun :0).
      PS smells like drinking coffee in a laundrette.

      1. David, that’s a timeless photo of your daughter! Very inspiring. Thanks for your advice on this, I really appreciate the information! I love coffee by the way 🙂

  3. I’ve been looking into using coffee (actually caffeic acid) as a developing agent. I’ve heard that the process gives off an awful odor, is that true?
    Anyway have you tried using caffeic acid? I’ve had a difficult time finding it at a reasonable price, any suggestions?

    1. I just use the cheapest granulated instant coffee the smoother more expensive blends have less acid. Normal caffenol smells a lot better then usual developer and fixer. It’s easier to go to the supermarket for me than having to order expensive chemicals. It fits better to the greener profile caffenol has also. I have one exception Potassium Bromide which I purchased from Silverprint in the UK.

  4. Thank you for this great introduction to alternative developing! I had read “caffenol” several times on the web, not really knowing what it was. I will be definitely following your instructions for my next development batch. 🙂

    1. Nice to hear I’ve inspired someone. It’s fun and I wasn’t expecting much the first time. What can I say it works.
      Good Luck. Maybe you’ll post some results for us to look at?

  5. Thank you for sharing the details of the process, I really must try this sometime now I know the nitty-gritty 🙂

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