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Archive for March, 2011

Developing Analogue Film with Instant Coffee

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Listening to German photographer Chris Marquardt’s Tips from the Top Floor podcast the discussion turned to an alternative green film developer from the standard dark room chemical developer generally used in the film developing process. The green developer under discussion 28 minutes into episode #495 was instant coffee – Caffenol.

I love black and white photography and have been wanting to explore film for a while. The idea of a green development process makes me wonder whether a part of our house will finally become a dark room (touch wood and kiss a fairy on the not-so-hairy bum).

Monica Andrae, Chris’ partner, had the idea of developing with a more environmentally friendly process for their recent Mount Everest trek. She would shoot with a 50-70 year old box camera using 120 medium format roll film that produces 6 x 9cm negatives. This camera has an uncoated superminiscus lens that creates a cloudy dreamy look. Monica’s dilemma was what film and developer to use given that (a) sherpas would probably ditch the old developer behind a rock on Everest; and, (b) the xrays at airports can make more sensitive exposed films develop with less contrast and fogginess, especially if it’s higher ISO film.

In short, she wanted to shoot and develop analogue film at 16000 feet with a lower environmental footprint.

After investigating the alternatives, she discovered that film can be effectively developed using either instant coffee or red wine. There are similar molecules within the industrial chemical film developers as in caffeine and the acid in coffee.

The basic ingredients for Caffenol are instant coffee, washing soda and vitamin C. The cheaper and stronger robusta bean works far better than arabica beans. Monica emphasises the importance that the coffee must not be decaffenaited and that washing soda is water free (as opposed to baking soda).

Also, the Caffenol recipe would work without the vitamin c component but the result would be a lower contrast and slower development time.

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Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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