November 26, 2012

The Caffenol Cookbook and Bible

.... is a project surely worth not only an entry in the link list but also an extra posting. And no, the book is not sold for money to make us rich, it's available for everyone online and totally free by Community Spirit Publications. Made by nine well known Caffenol cooks under the project leadership of the fabulous large format photographer Bo Sibbern-Larsen. I'm very proud to be part of this project. See a bunch of fine Caffenol developed pictures and get lots of infos about this marvellous developer. There are still some minor imperfections of the web design, but really enjoyable to look and read. So here I proudly present:

Thank you very much for your enthusiasm and patience, Bo.

October 6, 2012

Caffenol-C-F and Cardinal

After a few more results with Caffenol-C-F I have to state that compared with my other Caffenol receipes this is a weak developer giving thinner negatives. It has less Vit-C and the sulfite is also slowing down the development. So for boxspeed you might need about 20 minutes development time, Also less sulfite may be good for better film speed, maybe 30 or 40 g/l. You can play with the amount of sulfite without any other change, but you probably have to adjust the dev time. We see exactly the same behaviour as with regular fine grain developers, smaller grain -> less speed. But together with Rodinal/Parodinal we get a developer on steroids, still producing acceptable fine grain. And still we need more experiances with Caffenol-C-F and the Cardinal developer.

And no, there won't be a pope developer. The original latin "cardinalis" has nothing to do with katholizism, nor do I.

TMax 400 @ 800, Cardinal developer 12 minutes, 20 °C, regular agitation. The Tmax 400 was difficult in Caffenol-C, a lot of fog and rather large grain. Now we have reasonable fine grain, no fog and speeds up to 3200.

Best - Reinhold

August 15, 2012

New recipes

Hi guys, something new after a long time. I had lots of fun with Caffenol-C developers in the past and wanted to try something new for me.

Caffenol-C and it's many variants are not real fine grain developers, although Caffenol-C-L is better than most others in this regard. Many commercial fine grain developers use sodium sulfite as a silver solvent agent, making grain smaller in high concentrations. One of the most famous for sure is D-76, containing 100 g/l sulfite in the stock solution. Lower amounts are used as a preservative. For another purpose it is used in waterbeds, it's sold here sometimes as "bubble ex". And that's how I got it from a waterbed supplier, 400 g for 4,60 Euro, shipping included. Not a big venture ;-)

Another thing was adding Rodinal to a Caffenol-C, using a third developing agent for synergistic work and hopefully better film speed. It already worked, but grain was pretty big. Could sulfite be the solution? And could homebrewed Parodinal from Paracetamol painkiller pills substitute the Rodinal? Will we get the desired film speed? Will we get reasonable fine grain? The target is at least EI 1600 from an ISO 400 film, more is better, and grain should be much smaller than with a Delta 3200 for example. That's a great film, speed and shadow details are splendid in many developers, but very expensive and grain is pretty huge for 35 mm film.

So here's the new Caffenol-C-F recipe, F means fine grain:

washing soda waterfree 17 g/l
Vit-C 4 g/l
sodium sulfite aka "bubble ex" 50 g/l
instant coffee 40 g/l
pot. bromide 1 g/l

Together with Rodinal 20 ml/l = 1:50 it worked perfect, so I brewed Parodinal according to Donald Qualls recipe:

250 ml water
30 tablets @ 500 mg Acetaminophen (Paracetamol, Tylenol)
sodium sulfite, anhydrous, 50 g
sodium hydroxide 20 g

Again the sulfite was the "bubble ex" and the hydroxide was "drain free" or "Rohrfrei" in german. If there should be small aluminium chips in there, remove them with a plier.

Use protective gloves and glasses. Never pour water over the hydroxide, give small amounts of hydroxide into the water at the time. Cool the mug in cool water while diluting the hydroxide. Be careful! Stay away if any doubts!!!

I let stand the fresh Parodinal for 3 days, then I use it. See how it worked.

The Cardinal developer - Caffenol-C-F with Parodinal 20 ml/l 

This is a completely homebrewed developer.

The first one is HP5+ as 35 mm film at EI 3200 in Caffenol-C-F with Parodinal 20 ml/l developer, I call it the Cardinal developer.

So the grain is razor sharp and small, scanned with a high resolving Minolta Scan Dual II. Some brightening was necessary in postprocessing, but nothing too dramatic.

Now I tried the TMax 400, 35 mm film, in Cardinal developer. The film was a delicate candidate in Caffenol so far, lots of fog and quite ugly grain at high speed. So again the TMax400 was exposed at EI 3200, developed 15 minutes @ 22 °C in Cardinal, agitation first minute constantly, then 3x every 2 minutes.

Shot in bright sunlight with a Minolta Dynax (Maxxum) 700si with battery grip shutter speed of 1/4000 and a stopped down tele lens, the neg is really contrasty and reminds of a transparency. How I love the look! The 35 mm film was scanned with the reliable Canoscan 8800F, needing some unsharp masking in postprocessing but with better tones and I love the result. The Tmax400 shows almost no fog, very, very small grain for EI 3200 and - of course - a bit compressed tones. For better shadow detail and easier silver prints you should restrict the exposure to EI 1600 and are rewarded with splendid tones, very fine grain and exquisite sharpness at EI 1600 - I'm glowing! Let's hope that Kodak will survive.

Finally I have to give credits - huge credits:

- Dr. Scott A. Williams and his 1995 technical photography class at the R.I.T. - the Caffenol pioneers!
- Donald Qualls and his omnipresence in the universe of homebrewed developers
- Steve Anchell for his great "darkroom cookbook"
- all the guys at "The new Caffenol home" group at flickr for their constant help, encouragement and inspiration
- and the many mostly unnamed friends in the www like Rob, Mike "the englishman in France", Larry, Henrique, Dirk, another Dirk, Gerald, Jon, Khoa, Adrian, Volker, Micha, Berthold ..... just to name a very few by their first names, they will know.......

Thank you very much!

Best - Reinhold

April 26, 2012

Fixer 2 - errare humanum est

Hi folks,

I stated before that salt will not fix photographic film, but I was wrong. Yes, I tested it and it didn't work, but under special circumstances you can use kitchen salt as a fixer. So how to?

You must use a highly concentrated solution of table salt of about 300 g/l. That's a lot! That's really a lot!!! Maximum solubility is 359 g/l, so the suggested solution is almost saturated and the diluting process takes some time and/or a lot of stirring. Furthermore the fixing takes a lot of time, after about 24 hours the exposed at room light but undeveloped little piece of APX100 was clear. Since fixing time is said to have to be doubble of the clearing time, expect a total fixing time of 2 days! Rising the temperature to 30 or 40 °C will shorten the time to a couple of hours, but I don't want to "cook" my bw-films.

The perfect clear snippet of the film then was developed and no blackening at all occured, indicating that no silver halide was hold back in the emulsion. I developed with Caffenol-C-M and the film snippet got a remarkable brown tint. I noticed before that some films have a stronger brown tint if they are developed with salt as a restrainer, of course with much less salt. But of course usually the negs are first developed and then fixed, so I expect no problems.

I tried regular non-iodized table salt and iodized table salt, both work about the same. Both contain a small amount of anti-caking agent: E 535 aka hexacyanoferrat(II). Since the amount is very small - max. 20 mg/kg - I don't think it has an influence. But never say never again, hahaha.

So it's good to know that there is an alternative to thiosulphate based fixers. Be it if you live abroad or can't get regular fixer for what reason ever or simply because you like it, it's good to know. I will continue fixing with the regular one because it only takes a few minutes, but NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. 

All these insights I owe Sir Henrique the "Cronocrator" and his fine blog: and the corresponding discussion in "the new Caffenol home" group at flickr. Thank you very much, guys.

Some questions are left, f.e. we have no explanation why it works and how other films behave, especially films like TMax or Delta. So before using this method you should make own trials with the film and salt you use before you ruin important negs. It's simple. Cut a small piece from the leader of 35 mm film, put it in a solution of 300 g/l salt, wait and see. Should be done in a simple glass mug.

Now after so much salt I urgently need a COFFEE!!!

Best - Reinhold

April 12, 2012


There's absolutely no way to invent an environmental safe fixer. No way at all! Problem are the unused and removed silver salts from the emulsion, they come from the film and they are toxic for micro organisms. If you don't remove these salts, you do not fix! The commonly used thiosulphates (hypo) alone are of very, very low toxicity, the silver ions are the problem.
Kitchen salt doesn't work at all as a fixer, beleave me, I tested it. And I don't know of any reliable source that can confirm kitchen salt works as a fixer with modern films. And even if it should work (again, it doesn't!) still you would have to dispose the used fixer environmentally safe!!!

So use your regular fixer without bad consious. A "bio"-fix does NOT  and can NOT exist. Proper disposal and re-using the toxic and expensive silver is the only way that makes sense, for us AND the environment.

I'm really getting tired answering this question: salt does NOT work as a fixer. No matter how often it is claimed. This is a myth coming from the 19th century!!!

Important update, see next post: Fixer 2. I don't delete this post, it's part of my own Caffenol history.

April 9, 2012

My new photo blog

No recent posts, what's happening with the Caffenol blog?

Most secrets about coffee based bw film development are no secrets any more. Also the flickr Caffenol group is rather quiet now, people are very successful all over the world with Caffenol and they create awesome pictures. My recipes have become a kind of worldwide standard, if anyone wants a standard at all. In the very first line I did this all for myself and got the most reliable developer I can think of.. Always fresh, never again think about shelf live, non-toxic and environmental safe, pleeeeasing results, what more can you ask for?

You could add all the well known agents from conventional developers like sulphites to get a real fine grain developer or experiment with other additives. But that's not my cup of "tea" anymore. 

So, this blog will stay alive as long as Google will let it live. Every once in a while I will come back here and maybe post something or not.

I started a new blog and anyone is invited to have look. I will post pictures from the past and recent ones. Digitally captured or film based. BW, monochrome or colour, frugal images hopefully:


Best wishes for everybody - Reinhold

Here's a pic on long expired Efke KB 25, exposure index 40, developed in Caffenol-C-L with 0.5 g/l KBr, 45 minutes semi-stand at 20 °C. Very dense highlights, should have been developed at less time. Digitally split toned with Gimp.

Time for a huge english style breakfirst and a delicious cup of coffee - italian style of course.

February 12, 2012

Efke 25 - Caffenol-C-L

I was waiting for a large format contri, but it didn't arrive. So here we go with another story. The Efke R 25 was exposed with EI 50. Caffenol-C-L with 6 g/l iodized salt, agitation 1st minute continuously, let stand for 60 minutes. No prewash. Lot of uneven development, this one is the best and shows the potential. Maybe prewash and some more agitation will help, also some pot bromide. Almost no grain, beautiful tones, 6x6 neg here. The Efke is a rude film, curls like hell and attracts dust like a vacuum cleaner, the film base is like an optical fiber. I hate PET film base. As the wet emulsion is very scratch sensitiv I didn't wipe the film before drying. Result: littered with small white drying marks and dust, dust, dust...

Tones are nice, but what a pain in the a.. the darkroom and scanning handling is.

January 1, 2012

happy new year

I wish everybody a happy new year 2012 filled with love and peace


HP5+, Caffenol-C-L