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Chemistry, I am scared!: Of course, you’ll tell me...
Films developed with Caffenol: Finally, I processed quite...
Caffenol Formulas: Preparing Caffenol is dissolving instant...

Chemistry & DIY…

Chemistry, I am scared!

Of course, you’ll tell me that I am a chemist and so it is normal that I am not scared by chemistry, but after such a long time out of a lab, I have only a culture remaining. In fact, chemistry is not so fatal, any material is a chemical compound, chemistry and danger or toxicity are not necessarily synonyms.
Images, are involving chemistry, in the case of digital images, a lot of chemistry! A plant extract, although natural, is also a mixture, of chemical compounds.
I am happy with my digital “Photophoty” equipment, particularly for the cost of the generated images, but I miss the “graphy” part normally present in the word photography. We don’t write much, we just make light on a screen from light if the original scene.
Since the beginning of 2015, I had been interested in using matter to (re)create images. I intend to share humbly the methods I use in the simplest possible lab: My bathroom. DC IX 2016


Caffenol: Developing with Coffee!

Just when the life of my images was beginning to small like Instagram, the faith pushed me, no so strong, as I usually follow this path, towards a shop of a famous franchise of converting in money useless objects.
That day, the inside display was showing, at low price, in bad shape, a venerable Mamiya M645J medium format camera: Multiple impact marks, the filter screw thread of the 80mm f/2.8 lens with a bump from another fall… Nothing fancy appart from the price, 93.50€ and the warranty of money back or possible repairing if it was not working. The bad looking lens had a clean glass (but greasy), so usable. I went back home with the M645J in a simple purple plastic bag.
I ordered a battery, performed some test and cleaning and loaded a first roll of FP4+ in January 2015. I was disappointed for getting only 9 images out of 15 due to a blocking of the counter, after some research on Internet, I took the camera appart, (See opposite image), titillate a little, mount it again and here I am proud owner of a medium format camera! Detail View
Few rolls are enough to realize the forgotten truth, silver photography has high cost if you don’t do operations by yourself. But the medium format camera does not care about this, it need to eat film. The black & white, seems logical for being the “true essence” of film. But a black & white development is even more expensive, that’s not great! Then, by chance, I discovered the existence of Caffenol. The apparent simplicity due to the use of household products seduced me immediately. It’s love at first sight! It develops anything, they say, no need to store several developers with the corresponding problems (Chemicals… ?).
On top of that, it has an experimental aspect I miss from the lab times.

Two of the more recent common developers are probably 1996 Kodak Ktol and 1962 HC-110. In fact aga does not matter to the current films, found of Rodinal which patent was issued in 1891 and must-use Kodak D-76 dating from 1920s, like their ancestors on glass plates.
The legend of photography, tells that “during the war” (It is not clear which one), films were developed with formulas based on available products. Unfortunately, there is not much written information on the matter. In 1995, Dr. Scott Williams ask to his photographic chemistry class at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) to investigate development with common household products, the result is published in this little paper. The original formula contains instant coffee, sodium carbonate (washing soda) and sodium hydroxyde (Caustic soda) dissolved in water. A bomb has been dropped!
In the 8 following years, a growing number of DIY photographical chemists improved formulas to obtain finally a version that could be used instead of classic developers. Th name of Caffenol is invented by a|s00074gbDonald Qualls in 2004|a>. Later in 2010, the 2 major ressources on the subject are created: Reinhold (imagesfrugales)’s Caffenol blog and, Dirk Essl webpage.

Films developed with Caffenol

Finally, I processed quite a lot of different films in different conditions, including pushed 4 stops with fair results. Sometimes, not on first intent!
* Fomapan Classic100 (and its clon Lomography Earl Grey 100)
* Fomapan Creative 200
* Fomapan Action 400
* Foma Retropan Soft 320
* Fomapan Action 400 @1600
* Ilford HP5+
* Ilford HP5 (400), not sure about film, Robert gave me 20 years old expired rolls
* Ilford HP5 @1600
* Ilford HP5 @6400, I wish I still had some to use at this exposition index.!
* Ilford FP4 (125), same origin as the HP5, but with protective paper numbers transfert, I still have some.
* Rollei Retro 80S, a wonder, specially exposed through a 720nm infrared filter
* Rollei RPX 25
* Rollei RPX 100
* Rollei RPX 400
* Rollei RPX 400 @1600
* Rollei RPX 400 @6400, not so great but it was better on second intent!
* Rollei Superpan 200, a film with fame of not being Caffenol friendly, semi stand, C-L…
* Rollei ATO 2.1, an orthochromatic “lith” film, promising results.
* Shanghai GP3 just before it disappear, I only had 13 quality rolls.
* Fujifilm Acros 100, tough to wash…
* Kodak 400TX
* Kodak TMZ @1600, 12 years expired, for grain lovers!
* Kodak T400CN, 11 years expired, nice rendering.

Caffenol Formulas

Preparing Caffenol is dissolving instant coffee, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), sodium carbonate and in my case iodized salt in water. There are a lot of theory on Caffenol, how to mix it, the fact “you can’t keep it”…
I have a logical order to make the solution detailed below:
1) Vitamin C and salt if any in one third of the water while staring with a plastic spatula
2) I add progressively the carbonate, there is foam, I stir regularly, I am not worried because the presence of acid helps getting it dissolved.
3) I add the rest of the water, stir again, if there is a little carbonate not dissolved, I am not worried neither because coffee is acid, it will help dissolving some remaining lumps.
4) Finally, I add the coffee , slowly, stiring between addition.
5) I leave it sit for a certain time, which could be up to an hour or more in a big bowl of water so it gets to room temperature. 20ºC (68ºF) is ideal but I went up tu 23ºC (74ºF) without problems compensating for development time.
Some people willing to help are giving proportion in whatever spoons they have to measure solids, I am still a chemist and I know volumes are not convenient to measure solids, a small electronic jeweler scale is worth nothing, I had mine of 200g capacity at 0.01g for 5€!
However, liquid measures, like water can be done with any graduate, precision is not so critical here.
For the proportion, I’ll use the quantities for 500ml for it is the volume required by my tank for a 120 film, a simple cross-multiplication will gives for other volumes.
By the way, the majority of formulas can be kept well and can be reused…

Caffenol C-H

The swiss army knife, you have to use first to become a Caffenol Junkie, rapid enough et problem-less, all purpose!
A recipe extracted from the 3 base Reinhold’s ones.
Ascorbic Acid: 8g
Iodized Salt (60mg/kg KIO3): 10g
Sodium Carbonate (anhydrous): 27g
Instant Café (Aldi, Lidl, Leader Price, Nescafé, Día…): 20g
Water: 500ml
Typical time at 20ºC : 15 min for Fomapan 100, Rollei RPX400, Kodak TX400
Agitation 10 times at the beginning plus 3 more every minute.

Caffenol Delta STD

This recipe of Dirk Essl’s works very well, at least for low sensibility films
Ascorbic Acid: 10g
Sodium Carbonate (anhydrous): 12g
Instant Café (Aldi, Lidl, Leader Price, Nescafé, Día…): 22,5g
Water: 500ml
Typical time at 20ºC : 11 min for Shanghai GP3 and Fomapan 100, 15 min for Acros 100, Rollei Retro 80S, Rollei RPX 100
Agitation 10 times at the beginning plus 3 more every minute.

Caffenol C-L

Difficult cases formula, for expired films et pushed developments also part of the 3 base Reinhold’s ones. “Semi-stand” development.
Ascorbic Acid: 5g
Iodized Salt (60mg/kg KIO3): 10g
Sodium Carbonate (anhydrous): 8g
Instant Café (Aldi, Lidl, Leader Price, Nescafé, Día…): 20g
Water: 500ml
Typical time at 20ºC : 70min for T400CN et Rollei Superpan 200, 75 min for Rollei RPX 400 @1600
Agitation 10 times at the beginning plus 3 more every 10 minutes.

Caffenol LC+New

Pushed in the middle of the storm by old books, I could not resist in buying the last “lith” film on the market, Rollei ATO 2.1, it’s a high contrast film, designed to render almost no grey tones between the white and the black. It is a very low contrast formula to compensate for film contrast. The result is not bad for a first try.
Ascorbic Acid: 1g
Sodium Carbonate (anhydrous): 5g
Instant Café (Aldi, Lidl, Leader Price, Nescafé, Día…): 6g
Water 500ml
15min at 20ºC for Rollei ATO 2.1
Inversions for the first minute, then 3 inversions every 3 minutes.