Published by dirk on

If you read a bit about caffenol development or development in general, you will quickly learn phrases like “my negatives came out very dense” or “negatives where thin, but scanned fine”. So what does all that mean?

If you develop color films in caffenol, most likely you will get dense negatives (dense meaning you cannot see through the film in this case), positive films and High ISO films will be denser then low ISO films. These negatives are not very good to produce prints on paper, as contrast is quite low and they have an orange mask. High ISO B&W Films will most likely come out very thin and will look like underdeveloped negatives. Both types will scan fine and with a small amount of Post Processing (Level adjustments) they will look good on a screen.

To show you the density of different films, I have created a testprint (contact sheet) on grade 3 paper, developed in Rollei Retro paper developer. From top to bottom: Ilford HP5 Plus 400, Ilford Delta Professional 3200, Ilford Delta Professonal 400, Kodak Porta 160 NC

As you can see, the exposure was set to properly expose HP5, as this film can easily be used to produce prints in the darkroom. Both Delta films are ‘thin’ negatives, letting a lot of light go onto the paper. Kodak Porta, being a color film, produces a ‘dense’  but contrasty negative. In the next weeks I will try to standardize this setting to show the density levels in the Film Development Chart, so stay tuned.


Dirk Essl is the founder of And has done a tremendous amount of coffee development in the past.


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