Can You Develop Film With Coffee And Vitamin C?

Are you feeling a little MacGyver-ish and have access to a film camera? Perhaps you want to try developing your pictures using coffee and vitamin C instead of a traditional developing solution. [Danish Puthan Valiyandi] does a great job of walking us through the steps he took, including precise measurements, temperatures, and timings involved in achieving great results. This is probably not for the first-timers, as he does use special equipment associated with traditional developing methods.

The process uses a couple of easily obtainable materials: instant coffee, vitamin C powder, and washing soda (sodium carbonate). Once the roll of film has been exposed, it’s put onto a jig for developing (Danish does this with the lights on to make the video after the break worth watching, but you’ll need to do it in the dark). Once nestled inside of the development container, he mixes up a batch of his diy developer and agitates according to a times schedule. When the development is finished, a chemical fixer–no diy alternative used here–is added to set the film. Dry out the strips and use a scanner to digitize your work. We’re surprised by the quality of the finished product, but we shouldn’t be… he certainly knows what he’s doing.


[Thanks Rob via Photojojo and Found Photography]

25 thoughts on “Can You Develop Film With Coffee And Vitamin C?

  1. Just wanted to point out that he’s using a proper black and white film, and this probably won’t work using colour film or the black and white films commonly available at consumer photo labs (which are designed to work with colour film processing).

    1. All photographic film has silver halide crystals in them. Processing colour film starts the same as B&W film, but the colour dyes are activated by the dye couplers and then the B&W images are removed by bleach (often combined with the fixer – “blix”). From what I understand, if you used a simple B&W process with colour film you are essentially performing a “bleach bypass”. I’m not certain though. Also, caffeinol stains your film brown, which is not usually a problem with B&W film, but could be for colour.

  2. What about using OJ and ammonia? I know the Mythbusters tried it in a Macgyver special, but couldn’t remember the exact steps (according to Wikipedia: OJ for 10 minutes, then ammonia for fixing, still in a darkroom).

  3. It’s a cool idea, if you shoot film and have the kit for developing already you should give it a try, though i will say that commercial developers aren’t that expensive anyway. I’ve read from those that have tried this that the caffenol mixture absolutely smells disgusting, so be prepared for that.

    I’ve seen weirder, there’s a guy on flickr called inetjoker who’s a mod on the i shoot film group who managed to develop a roll of B&W using his own urine, it worked it the negative were pretty grainy.

  4. I’d add that I have avoided using Cafenol in plastic developing tanks because I’ve seen how stained plastic drinking cups become after the 10th glass or so. But metal developing tanks are cheap, and harder to scratch with a soft brush when you want to remove the coffee stains.

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