Everybody knows that you can develop black and white film at home. Fewer people know that you can develop color negative film with black and white developer. What’s even more unbelievable is that you can also develop with coffee, as seen in the picture above.

As you can see, the end result is neither colored nor does it amount to decent black and white film. Then again, it was my first attempt to develop with coffee and it was never meant to replace special developers. When I’ve told my friends that I develop with coffee, they’ve asked why am I doing this and is the end result a brown film? In case of color negative film the result really is brown, but it is because of the material of the film not because of coffee. And I’m doing it just for fun.

So, how do you develop with coffee?

At first I have to say that in addition to developer you’re going to need a fixer and I suggest that you get that from a shop that is specialized on photography. Also, I assume that you are familiar with basic principles of developing a film.

At first you need a film. Basically, it’s not really that important which film you use. I used a cheap color negative film. Probably it’s easier to start with black and white. Anyway, I suggest that you have two or more those films. Then go and take some shots. Photograph some everyday objects and scenes, so if the development process gets messed up, you don’t feel too bad about losing those pictures. Definitely don’t go developing your friends’ wedding pictures for a first try, they might not be too happy about it, if all the pics get lost. And one more important thing – overexpose frames 1-2 stops!

Developer ingredients: washing soda, vitamin C and instant coffee
Developer ingredients: washing soda – 0.30€, vitamin C – 3.50€ and instant coffee – 1.5€.

Coffee developer
Coffee developer: after mixing the ingredients together, the developer is going to bubble for a little while.

To make a non toxic developer, you’re going to need three ingredients: instant coffee, vitamin C and washing soda. Coffee can be a cheapest kind in the store and I suggest instant because it’s easier to dose that. It definitely must not be decaf, ’cause caffeine is a key element here. Vitamin C you can get from a drug store and if possible get it in the powder form. Unfortunately I didn’t have that option and had to go for pills with as little additives as possible. And washing soda I bought from a supermarket. NB! Don’t confuse it for a baking soda.

For making a developer I used a following recipe:

350 ml tapped water
6 ts instant coffee
3 ts washing soda
4 g vitamin C

Actually these amounts are not that important. What matters is that you can remember your recipe and reproduce it later. When you’ve mixed all the ingredients together and they have properly dissolved, let it sit for about 15 minutes, so that all the bubbles have disappeared. When you start developing, the temperature of the mixture should be approximately 20C (68F) as usual.

It’s hard to suggest the right time for developing. For the first time you can try 12 or 15 minutes and you can correct it next time. The rest goes as usual. Agitate every minute for ten seconds. After developing use stop bath (before that you may want to use an other extra rinse). Then fixing bath and final wash. Simple.

Above is a picture of my first attempt to develop with a coffee. For some reason I did it for 20 minutes and the result was a very transparent film, from which it was pretty hard to retrieve a picture. The result belongs to a territory of a lomography rather than a serious photography, especially when considering that the photo was taken with a real LOMO camera Smena 6. In the picture you can see the Small Building of Vanemuine Theater in Tartu.

Photo is taken with Smena 6.