Developing Film With Coffee

I recently started developing my own black and white film, but I wanted to avoid having to buy a ton of commercial chemicals, partly because they are hard to get, and partly because they are hard to dispose of. I remembered that a friend had once mentioned to me that it was possible to develop film with coffee, and so I started doing a bit of research.

Coffee based developer is commonly referred to as Caffenol and there are a ton of resources available about it on the internet. The one thing I found the most useful was this table which gives development times for different films with different developer recipes. I shoot Ilford Delta film for most of my black and white work, so the Delta-STD recipe worked out well for me.

The Recipe

750ml Water 9tsp Washing Soda 2.5tsp Vitamin C 13.5tsp Instant Coffee A couple of notes about this recipe: first, the amounts don't have to be perfectly exact, the tolerances for this developer are, in my experience, pretty lenient; second, get the cheapest instant coffee you can, seriously cheaper is better in this case; lastly, this stuff smells like shit, like really bad, in fact theres little point in my saying this, because it would be hard to accurately describe how awful it smells. In addition to the developer, you will need a fixer. This is the only commercial chemical that is needed for this process and it can be picked up pretty cheaply. One bottle will work for a LOT of film. I use Ilford Rapid Fixer follow the instructions on the bottle you buy for mixing it.

The Process

Before you can develop film you will need to have a daylight developing tank and have loaded your film onto the reels for your tank. Note that film loading must be done in COMPLETE DARKNESS, many people have misconceptions about this because they have seen darkrooms with red safe lights in them. Film is to sensitive even for a safe light, and must be kept in total darkness until it is developed. I fashioned a changing bag out of an inside-out black sweatshirt and some black garbage bags. Loading the film onto the reels in complete darkness is not easy, so I suggest you practice a bit first, there are plenty of tutorials on youtube that can teach you how to do this.

There are four main steps to developing black and white film:

Developing Stop Fix Rinse I started off with a quick presoak, just fill the tank with room temperature water, and let soak for a few minutes. With the presoak done, and the developer mixed, its time to start developing! Pour the developer in the tank, it will take about 9 minutes to develop. Agitate the tank continuously for the first minute, and then agitate it three times each minute, it helps to have an interval timer to do this.

Once the developing is done we need to stop it. This simply involves rinsing the film three times, agitating the tank during each rinse. As soon as you have rinsed the film, pour in the fixer.

The fixer stays in for about five minutes(refer to the instructions on the bottle) follow a similar process to the developer, agitating three times every minute.

The last step is to rinse the film. Rinse it four times, agitating more and more each time. On the last rinse you will probably want to add a bit of dishwasher detergent, or a drop of Kodak Photo Flo in order to ensure that the negatives dry streak free.

Now you can hang your negatives up to dry and just wait!


Once the negatives are dry I like to scan them. I find that these negatives scan extremely well, but I will let the results speak for themselves!