When a fellow board member of my photo club said that this semester we'd have a "Develop with Coffee" class It certainly wasn't the first time I'd heard of the phenomenon known as "Caffenol". I'd even seen a video or two of it on YouTube, but I hadn't tried it myself before. So I figured, why not give it a go. The worst that could happen would be that a film would be ruined and I wouldn't have those particular pictures...really not the end of the world.
So I figured I'd take a 120 camera to shoot the images, because that way I could have a full roll to develop and only have to shoot 12 pictures, rather than my usual 36. So after some investigating among the camera stores I found one that still sold 120 film, and I secured a roll of Kodak TMax 400 to put in my old Zeiss Ikon Nettar from the late 50s. Of course I botched the film insertion process and accidentally rolled past image 1, so I had just 11 frames to shoot in the end when I was out in Bokskogen, a nearby wooded area a few miles from my home.
The development process was actually pretty straight-forward. Mix instant coffee, vitamin C and washing soda into water to form the developer...use regular water as the stop bath and then you have standard photo fixer as...you guessed it...fixer. After a few rinses the film strip was hung to dry and then studied on the light table. There were a few oohs and aahs from the other photographers in the class, so I guess I did a good job. It was kind of hard to tell though until I had the images scanned, but after doing that I must say I am impressed with the Caffenol process. The negatives were a bit more washed out than my regular ones, but I guess that is to be expected when using a non-standard developer, and that's something that can be easily fixed in either post-production or when you print your images...just leave the light on for a bit longer to make the images a bit darker in tone.
I don't know if I will do much Caffenol development, but it is good to know that in a pinch I can certainly use common household items to develop my film! Or even papers, something I didn't know you could do, even though Kenneth, our teacher, pointed out that it takes a lot of developer to print many papers because the developer goes off after just a few prints being put through it. It just might be something I wanna try though...the ingredients are fairly cheap and we have lots of available papers at the darkroom.