A brown and sticky development
The great coffee project was conceived some weeks ago, and the necessary film (capturing a few shots of coffee shops and many shots of other things,long since forgotten), had been passed through a camera. What was needed was a day to develop the film, and yesterday was the day.
The enterprise required three ingredients: Instant coffee, Vitamin C and Washing Soda. I assumed the last would be the most difficult to obtain given the endless complaining on relevant forums, but a quick visit to the swimming pool pump room in our condo revealed big bags of Na2Co3, which anyone with any chemistry knowledge, or access to Google on their phone while standing in a pool room, will tell you is Sodium Carbonate, a.k.a. Soda Ash, a.k.a Washing Soda.
Of course, being a member of the condo committee, it would be completely inappropriate for me to abscond with a tub full of the precious powder, at least not when anyone was looking. So that was the Washing Soda sorted.
Next it was off to a local shop to find the most awful instant coffee. All instant coffee is awful, but Caffenol experts recommend choosing the most vile product you can find as it is likely to include assorted chemicals which have the twin properties of aiding film development and removing the skin from your tongue should you be foolish enough to try and pretend it is actually coffee.
There were a couple of Thai brands that looked promising, but their ingredients included not only a semblance of coffee, but also milk and lashings of sugar; not at all what I was after. In the end I went with Nescafe Red Cup on the basis that it was the cheapest that seemed to only contain coffee; although the packet shouted that it had “enhanced recovery aroma!”, which was marketing speak for “has extra chemicals added!”.
Just the Vitamin C to purchase, so it was off to the holy grail of medications, the Fascino Pharmacy shop, a vault of a place that will sell you everything from a bed, to a bed pan, to a pair of operating room scissors that I have found ideal for dealing with an ingrowing toenail.
I went to the this shop, because I was after more than just a bottle of Vitamin C pills, I wanted the pure powder.
Hello, do you have any Vitamin C powder?
I don’t think we have, how about some Vitamin C pills?
No good, they might contain extra ingredients that aid digestion, or add colouring, or make them taste yummy.
I see (she didn’t, and was looking slightly nervous).
I just want pure asorbic acid powder.
We don’t have that (said too quickly, I want this man to leave).
That’s a shame.
How about these pills? Is 500mg OK?
If I have to take pills, I will just grind them up into powder.
By this time I think she was convinced that powdered asorbic acid was a prime ingredient in bomb making, so she was happy when I settled for a bottle of what appeared to be reasonably pure Vitamin C pills.
Likely being tracked by the CIA, I headed home and inspected my purchases/theft:
It took ten sachets of Nescafe to provide the required amount of coffee. These were mixed into a small glass of water and the resulting aroma is what you might expect a glass of cold Nescafe at ten times normal strength might smell like. The washing soda was also mixed with water, and twenty eight Vitamin C pills were pounded to dust.
The three ingredients were then added together. Had a bit of trouble getting all the Vitamin C out out of the mortar; but then that is precisely what she who must be obeyed’s toothbrush is for. Trouble is, once the Vitamin C was added into the mix, it went all foamy, perhaps indicating there were other things in the pill that could fuck up film processing. So I decided to filter the whole dirty mess through some coffee filter bags I discovered in a cupboard; a bit of a surprise find because I haven’t used filter bags in fifteen years.
Unfortunately, the filters proved they had a shelf life of something less than fifteen years by collapsing and joining the rest of the sludge they were meant to be preventing in the mixing bowl.
In the end I decided to just go with the rather unpleasant sticky amalgam of chemicals, coffee, vitamin and filter paper; mainly because the smell was so damn bad. Instant coffee smells foul enough; but Caffenol takes vile aromas to a whole new level. I had to go and check on the cats because it smelled like something had died and was decomposing rapidly.
So into the film developing tank with the brown sludge, and with little hope in my heart I set about attending to a ten minute developing cycle. After ten minutes I poured out the mess, washed out the tank with water and then stopped and fixed the film as normal.
And the result? Much better than expected given what the film was immersed in. Needed to work on the contrast a little, and there is nothing I would rush to print on paper; but a promising start worthy of another go with some better Vitamin C.
Have yet to scan all the negatives, but here are some more from the same film, totally not coffee related:
Ilford HP5 ISO 400 B&W film, with 1950 Kiev camera and equally ancient lens (I forget which one). Processed using Caffenol Delta recipe with double the recommended Vitamin C for ten minutes, with ten tank inversions per minute and a lot of praying to the god of acrid coffee.
Photo of coffee shop developed in coffee? Done. Next challenge please.
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