Caffenol for paper prints

It’s been a long time since there was an article here on and I know that some of you are really looking forward to see more pictures of prints developed in Caffenol. I have received very nice results from József, a Hungarian mechanical engineer, coffee addict and lover of analogue b&w photography and good wines.

József writes:

Caffenol came to my life as a crazy idea. Some months ago I found a short description of Caffenol in a Hungarian photography forum. It was enough to wake up the curiosity in me so I began to search for additional info about it. Then I decided to try… The first attempt was an expired (and forgot in the camera) Fuji Superia 400 colour negative. It worked, I had very promising result so I knew that I must go on with this coffee soup. But I found the paper development more exciting.

I’ve got hundreds of old Forte papers (some are 30 years old) to play so I used some of these for the first test. I chose some “unusable” frames to enlarge with very high contrast because I expected Caffenol to be a compensating developer. I was right, caffenol is absolutely suitable for hard negs. The following sample shows what I want to describe…

Ok, Forte was just to play. The second round was a serious work with my favourite paper: Fomatone MG Clasic. I have to say Fomatone loves coffee! It’s simply amazing. I love its tones (even in regular paper developer) and colours, because there’s no black and no white! (See befpass-1200.jpg in the attachment.) I tried Fomabrom Variant as well but it needs more time to find the suitable settings for this paper.

Technical details: I used a general recipe for papers: 900 ml water (I use distilled water) 12 tsp instant coffee, 6 tsp soda and 3 tsp vit C. Temp was 20 C. Since Fomatone is a variable contrast paper I used #2 filter from Ilford Multigrade filter set. I set the exposure for a standard 2 min development. As you mentioned Caffenol exhausts quite quickly so development time must be increased by 30 sec after each whole paper or 1 min after every second papers. I think the exhausting depends on the number of developed paper, not he time. You can work with the soup for hours if you don”t develop too much papers.

At last my personal experience and advice: I recommend a wash directly after the development with the same temperature to prevent the clarity of your stop bath and fixer. This means, if you use stop bath, insert a tray between the developer and the stop bath filled with clear 20 C water. When you develop the 3rd paper, check the development after 2 min and decide if you need to increase development time. You have to take the paper out of coffee if you want to see anything. After 6-8 papers or if development time exceeds 4 min it’s recommended to mix a new soup. Agitation is important. I agitated continuously. When the development time is increased, the agitation should be continuous at least for the first 2 minutes.

I have to say I am very impressed by the results, and it matches my experience using caffenol as a paper developer: the amount of sheets counts, not the time of using caffenol as developer.

József is reachable through his website on

As usual, if you have comments regarding this post, successful or even unsuccessful results of your caffenol experiments, or just nice pictures to share, feel free to give me a shout using the contact form.