Mixing It Up With Caffenol

Run out of your usual black and white developer? No longer have a traditional film store in your local high street? Annoyed by people asking you rhetorical questions? Then pop in to town and pick up a jar of cheap instant coffee, some soda crystals, and a dash of powdered vitamin C. Mix with water and voilà : you have caffenol.

Here’s What You’ll Need

Instant Coffee: Coffee contains caffeic acid, which acts as the developing agent. Any old cheap rubbish will do by all accounts. I bought the cheapest and nastiest stuff I could find.

Soda Crystals: A developer needs to be alkaline to work, but coffee is fairly acidic. That’s where soda crystals come in. Adding them to the mix raises the PH and allows the development process to kick in.

One thing I found from my research that you don’t often see mentioned, is the different types of soda crystals. Most recipes you find online assume the soda crystals are anhydrous (i.e. water free). However, here in the UK the most common brand you’re likely to come across is Dri-Pack Crystals. These are not anhydrous, and people who are smarter and have more time on their hands than me have worked out you should multiply the amount by 2.7 to compensate for this.

Powdered Vitamin C: This considerably speeds up the developing time, making the process more practical. You should be able to pick this up from a pharmacist or health food store like Holland & Bollocks. Strictly speaking what I’m making here is known as caffenol-C. You can make plain old vanilla caffenol without the vitamin C – the only difference is you’ll be hanging around for a lot longer.

The Quantities

To make 1 litre:

  • 150g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 16g Vitamin-C powder
  • 40g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 1000ml of solution

I don’t think this stuff really keeps, so it’s best to mix only what you need. Here are the minimum amounts to process a single roll of 35mm and 120 in a paterson tank:

35mm

  • 45g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 4.8g Vitamin-C powder
  • 12g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 300ml of solution

120

  • 90g Dri-Pak Soda Crystals
  • 9.6g Vitamin-C powder
  • 24g Instant Coffee
  • Water to make 600ml of solution

The Method

  • Fill the beaker with half the target amount of water. In other words, 300ml if you want to create 600ml of developer.
  • Add in the soda crystals and stir for a good few minutes until dissolved. This seems to quickly lower the temperature by about 10℃. If I had a clue about chemistry I might be able to tell you why.
  • Vitamin C next; make sure it’s properly stirred-in.
  • Repeat as above with the coffee. Things don’t look or smell too good at this stage.
  • Top up with water to the desired level; 600ml in this example. Mix.
  • It’s probably a good idea to let it rest for 5 minutes or so, just to let the bubbles settle. You can use this time to get it to the pre-requiste 20℃ whilst you’re waiting. Putting the beaker in a bowl of hot water is good for raising the temperature. To lower the temperature of my developer I always use the genius invention that is plastic ice cubes.
  • From here on you can develop as normal, at the usual temperature of 20℃. For this roll of Tri-X 12 minutes worked well for me. After emptying the developer down the sink, give the tank a good rinse with water rather than using stop (I rarely use stop these days), and fix and rinse as normal.

In was really surprised how well these pictures came out. I thought they’d be some compromise; that they wouldn’t be particularly sharp or perhaps too grainy. But this seems to work as well as any other developer. I don’t know how often I’ll be using Caffenol in the future, but I’ll certainly keep the ingredients handy in the cupboard in case of emergencies.

All photos taken with Yashica Mat on Kodak Tri-X. Developed in Caffenol-C for 12 minutes

That Was The Month That Was: August 2018

Yep, it’s August’s random selection of snapshots

Spending the afternoon at the Beach in West Wittering, it seemed fitting to take that archetypal holiday camera, the Olympus Trip 35. Millions were sold during its lengthy production run from 1967-1984, during which time there were hardly any changes made to the original genius design. No batteries required; a solar-powered selenium light meter measures the light, and even though selenium photocells don’t go on forever, mine still meters perfectly. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember those classic commercials in the 70s with fashion photographer David Bailey.

Camera: Olympus Trip 35
Film: Fomapan 100

Coco The Cocker loves the sea

She may be 15, but Daisy still gets excited about going for a walk. The square format and the belly level perspective probably give away that this was taken with a twin lens reflex camera, in this case a Yashica Mat.
If you’re shooting a meter-less camera and using sunny 16 to calculate exposure, then these sunny cloudless days are the easiest. You can set and forget. I’ve it said that in the UK full sun is never that bright and we should actually use sunny 11, but 16 always works out perfectly for me. Perhaps it’s different if you’re further north.

Camera: Yashica Mat 124G
Film: Ilford FP4

When I step outside my home first thing on a sunny morning, this is one of the first things I see

Camera: Pentax KM
Film: Kodak Tmax 100

And this is the view coming back after my morning coffee

Amongst the dunes on West Wittering Beach.

Whenever I see dunes, I think of the BBC’s 1968 adaption of MR James’ Whistle And I’ll Come To you. If you’re a fan of MR James, then I heartily recommend the Mark Gatiss documentary MR James: Ghost Writer.

This is not a great photo of The Copper House, mainly because it gives no sense of scale or location. Next time I’ll do better. It’s a statue of George III mounted on a plinth in 1831, atop of Snow Hill in Windsor Great Park. When I’m cycling round the park, this is my favourite pace to stop and have my sandwiches. On a clear day you can see the control tower at Heathrow and the arches of Wembley Arena.

My current home of Chertsey is one of the oldest market towns in England. Of particular historical note is Chertsey Abbey. Founded in the ungodly year of 666, it was sacked by the Vikings in 875, who burnt it down and killed all the monks. Bastards. It was later rebuilt in stone, although all that remains is a pile of several dozen bricks, and I’m not totally convinced of their provenance. Its former presence is evidenced more strongly in many local names however, for example Abbey River, Abbey Fields, and Monk’s Walk.

Monk’s walk is an enclosed footpath that apparently once started from the Abbey, but now begins several hundred yards further along in Ferry Lane. It runs for about a mile and a half and you emerge quite suddenly next to St Mary’s Church in Thorpe. The exact date when the Church was built is unknown, although in 1963 a Roman cinerary urn was dug up in the churchyard and subsequently dated to around 150 A.D., indicating that the site itself has been of religious significance for going on 1900 years. It seems likely that the church itself was built in the 12th century, and perhaps Monk’s Walk was indeed a secret route between the Church and the Abbey.

When I cycle along there now the first thing you notice, at least in the summer, are the screams. It runs along the back of what is now Thorpe Park, and through the wire fence you get occasional views of some of the rides. Despite the presence of CCTV and razor wire-topped fences, I think there’s still a few opportunities to sneak into the park, if you’re so inclined.

For fast 35mm film I tend to flit between Tri-X and Tmax 400. Tri-X is a classic, but Tmax has very fine grain for a 400 speed film. I’ve seen ISO 100 films that are far grainier than this.

Camera: Nikon F90X
Film: Kodak Tmax 400

We went to pick our own at Durleigh Marsh Farm. I specifically voted to remain in the EU so we could continue to exploit East Europeans and I wouldn’t end up having to pick my own damn vegetables </sarcasm>


Square Up To Racism

These days:

My eyes aren’t good enough to set the controls without glasses, my brain isn’t sharp enough to promptly work out the exposure, and my fingers aren’t nimble enough to focus on a moving target.

But I don’t take the Mat out often enough and I’m very fond of the square format.

So if everyone could just hold it right there for a few more moments please…….and……..got it. Thanks.

Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017
Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X / Developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 minutes B


On Chesil Beach

Marge and me on the infamously gravelly Chesil Beach, circa 2009. I have conspicuously non-grey hair and Marge, as always, wears a hat very well. I’m not sure whether it was before or afterwards she bought me the book, but Ian Mcewan was one of her favorite authors.

Original photo taken on self-timer with my long defunct Olympus XA. Photo of the photo taken just to see how Tri-X would turn out pushed two stops and developed in HC-110. Pleasingly, I would say.

Shot with Yashica Mat with rolleinar 2 / Kodak Tri-X @ 1600 / Developed HC-110 Dilution B