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The first time I heard of Caffenol seemed too good to be true. An alternative photographic development process that could be done in your kitchen, with products you find in the market as Instant coffee, Vitamin-C and Sodium Carbonate, and would be able to get excellent results. Could this be possible?

Along with my passion for photography came respect and curiosity for the analog process of Bresson and Sebastião Salgado with their Leicas, immortalizing their view of the world on a roll of film contrasted with black and white. If you are like me, a romantic photographer always looking for more, that share that same sense of digital emptyness but never had the courage to venture into analog lands, homemade revelation is the way, and Caffenol is literally the solution.

This project is a practical guide on how you can use Caffenol to reveal your photos. A step by step guide for the beginners with home photo developing, containing key informations and explanations for you to start your analog experience and get great results .

More than sharing a method, this project is a tribute to all the people who through their passion and altruism, made Caffenol possible. People who dream, believe, share and especially values ​​the artistic production.

Caffenol

Caffenol is an alternative photographic development process, which uses in its formula elements easily found on the supermarket shelf. The formula consists of essentially a Phenol and a Base, and generally used the Coffee and Vitamin-C as phenols and Sodium Carbonate as base.

- unclear results. Subsequently added Vitamin-C and Sodium Carbonate were added, thereby improving the results to satisfactory levels. The Caffenol name came with time, as the process has been disclosed by the online photographic community, through blogs, websites specialized in photo development and social media.

“You don't shoot with your camera. You shoot with your culture.”

Sebastião Salgado

Searching for non-traditional photographic developers that used components easily accessible to the public in its formula , the Caffenol was initially developed in Rochester Institute of Tecnology (R.I.T.) in New Jersey, at the class of Technical Photography on the direction of Dr. Scott A. Williams ( Ph.D ) in 1995 . (A use for that last cup of coffe: Film and paper development).

After a series of unsuccessful tests with cleaning products and other chemicals , the group decided to focus his research on drinks based on caffeine , such as coffee and tea. Coffee has been shown to have very similar properties of the components used for photo developing , but with -

There are several recipes of Caffenol, among the most famous the Caffenol-C-M and Caffenol Delta, some of these widely tested and documented, others use various components such as wine, tea , Coke , Beer among other trials. Currently Caffenol is a well established process and supported by a community of passionate people, where you can find inspiration and answers to your questions.

In this project you find everything you need to know to begin with Caffenol: ingredients, recipes and especially details about the development process, as well as key links for you to get more information about Caffenol.

Process

One of the most interesting things about Caffenol is that in addition to its practicality and convenience, the method allows a large room for trials, after its popularization various recipes and processes have emerged and were being improved worldwide. Even if you start with the process presented here, it is extremely important that you will not only try and adapt this process to your own style, but also try other methods and recipes available from the sources listed here.

The following process is an adaptation of the traditional process of photographic development, simplified for the use of Caffenol. The recipe of choice is a derivative of my favorite recipe, "Delta-STD (Dirk Essl)", modified to achieve the result I was looking for, process and products that was available for me.

This is a record of my notes and experiments during these years of development, answers to questions that arose me, important tips to avoid problems I had in the past and especially a way to share the best sources of information I found in these years about this amazing process, Caffenol. I wish deeply that this project will not only bring you information, plus assist you and especially, inspire you to develop more and more. Have a great time!

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Process

One of the most interesting things about Caffenol is that in addition to its practicality and convenience, the method allows a large room for trials, after its popularization various recipes and processes have emerged and were being improved worldwide. Even if you start with the process presented here, it is extremely important that you will not only try and adapt this process to your own style, but also try other methods and recipes available from the sources listed here.

The following process is an adaptation of the traditional process of photographic development, simplified for the use of Caffenol. The recipe of choice is a derivative of my favorite recipe, "Delta-STD (Dirk Essl)", modified to achieve the result I was looking for, process and products that was available for me.

This is a record of my notes and experiments during these years of development, answers to questions that arose me, important tips to avoid problems I had in the past and especially a way to share the best sources of information I found in these years about this amazing process, Caffenol. I wish deeply that this project will not only bring you information, plus assist you and especially, inspire you to develop more and more. Have a great time!

01The Film

The Caffenol is a simple and safe process, but to get good results requires that your images have been properly exposed before.

The brand, type and sensitivity (ISO) film directly influence the process of revelation. For this example, we will use the 35mm film brand Illford, HP5+, ISO 400.

The unfolding of the film will be made in complete absence of light and requires practice. Watch the tutorials listed in the session Useful Links and try to simulate this step with closed eyes for a few times.

02Unfolding the Negative

In addition to his film, fixer and recipe ingredients, you will need:

Make a checklist and make sure that All Items are within the Changing Bag. Only when this is completely sealed, open the movie.

This is one of the most delicate parts of the process, so make sure you have practiced very well.

Wrap the negative in the reel patiently ( how this is done can vary according to the model of your reel) while avoiding touching the center of the negative, handling carefully using the sides.

After rolling all film in the coil, insert it in the development tank (if your tank has two reels, ensuring that reel with film stand under the empty Bonina).

Make sure there is no other object inside the development tank and then attach the locking ring on the reel (some models do not have this ring).

Close the development tank, screwing the lid completely to the main cover, only then put the top auxiliary lid. Remember that any incidence of light can ruin your film, so never open the tank lid before the end of the process.

Ready, relax now and open the Changing Bag, the film is safe and ready to be developed! Separate the tank.

03The Caffenol Recipe

Always be aware of the following measures and proportions in the preparation of any Caffenol recipe, also check the validity and the ingredients conservation status, that will influence directly in your results.

3.1Amount of Water

It is important that the amount of water you use cover all your film inside the tank.

For this recipe we'll use 500ml of mineral water at 20ºC. Distribute evenly in 3 containers.

If your water volume is different, recalculate the amount of the other ingredients accordingly.

500ml of mineral water, at 20ºC

3.2Vitamine C

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is easily found in supermarkets or pharmacies, feel free to choose any brand. Avoid only formulas composited with other elements such as zinc or sugar.

  • 1 level teaspoon (tsp)
  • (or) 2 pills
  • Crush and mix well

3.3Sodium Carbonate

The Sodium Carbonate or Kelp can be found in speciallized stores for Swimming Pools (Kelp Light, Formula: Na2CO3) and comes in the form of a thin, translucent salt.

  • 6 level teaspoons (tsp)
  • Strain and mix well

3.4Coffee

We will use Instant coffee (granules), of any brand or type. Always try to get the strongest.

  • 9 full teaspoons (tsp)
  • Strain and mix well

3.5Break (5 minutes)

Pour the contents of the containers 3 in 1 cup measures and mix well. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Before starting the next step , make sure that the temperature of the mixture is at 20ºC. It is common for the temperature to rise by up to 2°C, so you may need to control it.

After the break, use the mixture immediately, (you can re-use safely in the next hour). Dispose usually at the end of the process, after all, one more advantage of Caffenol is that it does not degrade the environment.

Caffenol recipe is ready for development. Watch the tutorials listed in the session Useful Links and get confortable with the proccess before proceeding.

04Development

The development process will have 4 steps: Revelation, interruption, fixing and washing, all will be timed.

Start the timer, remove the auxiliary lid and pour all Caffenol.

Agitate the tank in the first 60 seconds, then let stand until the timer reaches 2 minutes.

Now, agitate for10 seconds at the begining of each minute, until totalize 9 minutes.

Agitation Point ( More Information )

05Interruption

When the timer indicate 9 minutes, remove all Caffenol from inside the tank (disposal), remember to always use the auxiliary tank lid, never remove the main tank lid.

Now we begin the interruption process.

Fill the tank completely with running water, then empty it.

Repeat this process 3 times, or until the resulting wash water is clear. Do not take more than two minutes at this stage.

06Fixing

We will now fix the images revealed in the film negative.

Start the timer, remove the auxiliary lid and pour all Fixer.

Agitate the tank in the first 60 seconds, then let stand until the timer reaches 2 minutes.

Now, agitate for10 seconds at the begining of each minute, until totalize 5 minutes.

Agitation Point ( More Information )

07Washing

When the timer indicate 5 minutos, remove all fixer from the tank (don't discard, some fixers are reusable).

Now we'll begin the washing proccess.

Fill the tank completely with running water, but this time add two drops of neutral detergent, then empty it .

Repeat this process 3 times, or until the resulting wash water is clear and foam free.

60s Initial Agitation
60s Initial Agitation
3x Repetitions

Process for Illford HP5+ / ISO 400
for other films, check this table

Use mineral water
on room temperature

Agitation standard for home fixer recipe,
Sodium thiosulfate (recipe)

Use neutral detergent,
wash until the water is foam free

08Drying

There you go, you can now safely open the development tank, and contemplate the result of your first Caffenol development!

Unroll the negative from the Reel carefully and let it dry naturally, it should take around 30 minutes.

If you followed all the steps above, possibly your film was successfully developed, but as like any other photographic developing process, Caffenol requires practice and patience, so if you didn't got good results this time, don't give up!

If you have any suggestions or contribution to this process, please let me know!

Informations

Ingredients

One of the main advantages of Caffenol is the ease in finding the products needed to prepare your prescription, there is no brand restriction or any other type. Remember to always be attentive to the validity and conservation status of the ingredients in your recipe.

01Coffee

Known and loved around the world , coffee is the main developing agent of Caffenol process. "The cheaper the better," it is what they say the most experienced developers of Caffenol , the coffee in a low quality to be stronger and more concentrated , increasing its revelatory effect. In my developments i always used the coffee brand Nescafé, extra strong.

  • Cheaper is better
  • Strong or Extra strong
  • Check the expiration date
  • Crush and Coe

02Vitamine C

Ascorbic acid or vitamin C as it is known , is the second developing agent of the formula and one of the main responsible for the contrast and speed in the development process. I often use the brand Cebion, easily found in any market.

  • Simple formula (without zinc or sugar)
  • Seal well after use
  • Check the expiration date

03Sodium carbonate (Kelp)

Sodium Carbonate or Kelp as it is known in Brazil, is the base that makes the solution alkaline. The product can be easily found in stores specializing in products for swimming pools, usually in a pack of 1.5kg.

  • Thin and translucent
  • Store carefully, sealing packing
  • Check the expiration date
  • Leave out of reach of pets and children

04Sodium thiosulfate (fixer)

Sodium thiosulfate (Pentahydrate) or sodium hyposulfite as it was formerly known is an excellent photographic fixer and can be found in medicine from pharmacies. Use 250g for 700ml of fixer. I recommend reuse by up to 5 times.

  • Dissolve completely in mineral water
  • Store in a labeled glass container
  • Leave out of reach of pets and children

Post-Revelation

As important as a good development is the process of post-development, be it digital or printed. Always remember to store your negatives as well, preferably separated by a plastic guard that does not stick and ruin the film.

01Scanning

It is highly recommended that you have a proper scanner for negatives, but there are other alternatives like shooting negative with your digital camera or even take them to a laboratory and request to be enlarged, what it is always a great way to analyze your results.

If like me, you choose to scan the negatives, your choice for a scanner model should be based primarily on your needs, expensive scanners are more efficient and offer better resolution, but there are excellent low-cost options that also deliver decent results, good cost-effective example is this model that I usually use, the ION FILM 2 SD.

  • Scan with the side of the negative emulsion down
  • Check for the B & W option in your scanner
  • Scan always at the highest resolution possible

02Image Treatment

After scanning your images, you can improve them with a image editing software of your choice (Photoshop, Lightroom, Gimp , etc.). Adjustments such as contrast, sharpness and retouching to remove unwanted spots are common and ensures better results.

It is important that before you retouch your images you analyze the originals, so you can check what's good and what could be better, so you can improve your technique as a photographer and film developer.

  • Work in grayscale
  • Adjustment levels and curves are the key to a good contrast
  • Retouch only the necessary, less is more

Recipes

There are several Caffenol recipes, each with its specific advantages and applications. Listed below the most famous, authors and links to more information. Be sure to check the session useful links to learn more about each of them before you start.

Recipe Author Average development time (It varies according to the film)
Delta STD (customized) André Garcia 9 minutes
Delta STD (original) Dirk Essl 9 a 11 minutes
Cafenol C-M Eirik Russel Roberts 15 minutes
Cafenol C-H Eirik Russel Roberts 15 minutes
Volumetric Martina Woll & Jon Caradies 14 a 17 minutes
Sumatranol 130 John Nanian 25 a 30 minutes

Useful Links

Undoubtedly the best way to begin your journey with home development, with Caffenol or not, is by studying and getting informed. Below you can find listed the best sources of information currently available in the Caffenol comunity, basically all you need to know to develop your photos. Be sure to actively participate in the community, post your results, ask, answer, the Caffenol is much more than a recipe, it's a lifestyle!

Caffenol.com.br

Author

André Manfrini Garcia

andre.manfrini.garcia@gmail.com
dehsigner.com.br


Guidance

Cláudio Roberto Y Goya

Universidade Estadual Paulista "Júlio de Mesquita Filho", UNESP