Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Coffee Break – Develop Film at Home with Caffenol

Caffenol Blog / Polaroid 100 Land Camera

Guest Blog by Darren "Pancho" Riley

I'd read on Flickr about something called Caffenol. Fancy name, sure, but it's basically just instant coffee, washing soda and water. Some people add Vitamin C. And this Caffenol stuff can be used to develop black and white film or colour film as black and white. My experimental side was awakened and my thrifty side was even more excited so I decided to take the plunge! Here's what I did.

I had a roll of expired Solaris brand C41 colour film - only 12 shots so I figured I wouldn't be losing much in the event of my Caffenol experiment not working. Using my changing bag I loaded the film into a developing tank and then prepared the required ingredients. I used:

6 tsp instant coffee
3 tsp washing soda

Each was mixed in 125ml of water (125ml plus coffee and 125ml plus soda) and then the two were put in a jug with an extra 100ml of water. I put the jug in a warm water bath until it reached 20 degrees C and then poured the mixture into the tank.

The tank was agitated (turned upside down and the right way up again) for a minute and then agitated 4 times every 3 minutes. I did this for 25 minutes.

I then poured the non-toxic mixture down the sink and rinsed it with water, 5 times. This stops the developing process. Fixer was then added (this is the only “real” chemical you'll need) and agitated 4 times once a minute for 3 minutes. The fixer was then poured back into the bottle for reusing.

The film was then washed by pouring water into the tank, agitating 5 times, emptying then refilling agitating 10 times, emptying and finally agitating 20 times. I then put a little wetting agent into the water, removed the film and hung it to dry for around four hours.

All American

I have to say, I was pretty pleased with the results and one of the shots (above) is a personal favorite of mine - a sleazy adult magazine store (and no, I haven't been in!). Considering the film was expired, was meant to be colour and was developed as black and white in a bizarre mixture of coffee and washing soda, I think the results were pretty good.

Pop Star Caught Shop Lifting

Menacing Church

It's not the sharpest of processes but for someone like me who likes grungy photography, it's a process I'll definitely be investigating further. It looks like adding the Vitamin C can speed up the developing process a little when using proper black and white film but I can't say for certain - it's all about experimentation!

So get yourself some cheap instant coffee, some cheap washing soda and give it a go!

These sites were inspiring and very helpful to me:

Gracias all,
Darren "Pancho" Riley

Top image © Michael Raso
All other images © Darren "Pancho" Riley

Do you have a caffenol formula to share? E-mail us ( FilmPhotographyPodcast AT ) or leave a comment below.

Launched in October of 2009, the Film Photography Podcast is a 90 minute, bi-weekly Internet radio program, exploring a wide range of topics relevant to the experienced and aspiring photographer using film as a medium. Hosts Michael Raso and Duane Polcou enthusiastically dissect and debate the pros-and-cons of film formats, do-it-yourself techniques, digital technologies, and vintage and contemporary cameras and accessories in a thorough, informative and casual manner. Regular features include Camera tests and reviews, “book of the month”, interviews, a listener-generated Q&A, and film-related giveaways.

Produced in the United States, the Film Photography Podcast is broadcast around the globe via iTunes and direct stream from


  1. Hi Michael, I saw this on the RT on twitter. And this is very interesting recipe. My only question is how do you figure out the developing time is 25 mins? Cause this is what you read on flickr? Or just by guessing?

    I would like to try myself one day, and thanks for sharing ^ ^

  2. From Darren Riley:
    I got to that time by doing a bit of research and found this on the Massive Development Chart:

    The basic Caffenol recipe (no Vit. C) says 25 minutes for 120, 35 for 35mm. Thirty-five minutes felt too long so I just tried twenty-five instead! Just took a guess really, that's what's so fun about it.

    Addition link on what washing soda is...


    Has more information with different films, mixtures and sample images. He does go off a bit on receipts that have non-standard measuring.

    Caffenol seems to be a fairly forgiving process.

  4. I just ordered some Vitamin C for mixing up some caffenol at home. I'm hoping it works decently on Ilford Delta 100.

  5. Where did you find Washing Soda? I've looked all over and couldent find anything.

  6. I found Arm & Hammer washing soda in the cleaning section of Wegman's, a supermarket chain. I think I've found it in a number of stores since then.

  7. Hi, it's me, Reinhold, the blog author from Michaels link above. Congratulations and developing with Caffenol is a very rewarding experiance. I finally have to try the simple version without Vit-C, I never tried it (shame on me!).

    If using Arm & Hammer washing soda and and a cheap instant coffee, it will work charmingly, I have no doubt.

    If using other agents (mainly different soda) it's better to use a small scale/balance because it can spread widely in volume or weight.

    Now I will have a look or a "hear" at your podcast.

    Best regards - Reinhold

  8. Thanks for the info, but you got one thing wrong. You said, "I then poured the non-toxic mixture down the sink"... Used Caffenol has dissolved Silver Halides in it. It's Poison. Please, give a hoot, don't pollute. Take it to a photo lab (they can reclaim the silver) or collect it, and take it to your local hazardous materials drop-off.