C-41 film process with coffee

Writer and photography / Lomography tipster

It is possible to develop film with coffee, here is a good tip!

This is a really cool method I have been experimenting with. It will give you characteristics similar to a cyanotype print. I heard you can get various color shifts depending on the film type used, based on film layer chemistry, but this is my experience thus far with Kodak Gold 100 and Longs Advantage 200 both expired. Another cool thing about doing this is that you can also scan the negatives as black and white and get great results. It’s like a two for one deal.

I would highly recommend using cheap film at first if you haven’t developed with coffee yet, but if you decide to use standard black and white processing chemicals then just go for it. I would also recommend using a 100 to 200 iso film because these processing times relate to that and change for higher iso.

How to do it:

  • 6 teaspoons instant coffee (I use Nescafe) Note: Ground Coffee will not work!
  • 3 teaspoons washing soda (I use Arm & Hammer)
  • 1 crushed up chewable vitamin C (1/4 teaspoon powdered vitamin C even better) Note: Not sure exactly if this does anything, but powdered is supposed to cut down on dev. time so I threw it in there.
  • Dissolve in 12 ounces water and let stand five to ten minutes to clear bubbles. Note: Aim for 20 degrees C or 68 degrees F and try to keep it constant.
  • 20 minutes development time. Agitate contantly first minute then slowly three times every remaining minute. Give it a good tap on the table or floor after each agitation to loosen air bubbles.
  • Rinse three times with 12 ounces water (equates to agitate five to six times each).
  • Fix for ten minutes with 12 ounces fixer agitating three times per minute and tapping it.
  • Recycle fixer back then rinse again under faucet a bit.
  • 12 ounces water add half cap rubbing alcohol and rinse before hanging. Note: This helps it dry quicker with less streaks.

  • Hang dry in a dust free area then get your scan on. Note: You can adjust amounts to 8tsp coffee, 2 tsp washing soda, 8 oz water.

If you are going to develop with coffee consider overexposing by one to two stops depending on your lighting conditions because the coffee developer will pull (underexpose) your shots, which I had to figure out the hard way. This can be done in regular b/w chemicals too if you prefer.

This article is originally from the Lomography magazine.


4 thoughts on “C-41 film process with coffee”

  1. Whilst the coffee works as a developing agent the ascorbic acid (vit C) is much more powerful. This probably works just as well with just a straight Vit C/washing soda mix.. definitely worth a try. For a more aggressive dev try Vit C/Caustic soda

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