The Delta Recipe and about caffenol in general

When I first started caffenol, there where not so many recipes on the net, I think there where about 3 websites that had some information about caffenol. One of the best ressources at the time for me was digitaltruth, as they had a huge table about different films in different developers and also a caffenol recipe. They also have an iPhone app with the whole databsae in the palm of your hands which doubles as a developing timer. You can even store your own presets and so I started using it, noting down my experiments in the app, setting up presets.

The first recipe I ever used was without Vitamin C. I bought a Rodinax bakelit daylight developing tank on ebay and a Voigtlaender Vitoret DR on the fleamarket. I grabbed some expired Ilford Delta 3200 and shot a whole role of boring things around in my house. The rodinax tank requieres a film with the filmleader still being out, so I carefully rewinded the film, inserted it into the tank and mixed up some caffenol. 4 teaspoons of instant coffee and 2 teaspoons of washing soda. I poured in the developer, and turned the crank. the manual says you have to turn the crank every 30 seconds (as the developer only fills in the lower half of the tank) but me beeing a lazy person, I just turned whenever I felt like it. After about 30 minutes I fixed and washed the film.

When I removed the film from the tank, I was stunned. After a 20 years break, I developed film in my kitchen, using stuff, that ( beside fixer) can be found in it. It was addiction from the first shot! Beeing it the weekend and having no scanner for negatives, I made a slide duplicator out of cardboard, black tape, a 50mm lens and some macro rings. So even if you don’t have a scanner, you can easily make ‘scans’ of your negatives at nearly no cost.

My very first caffenol ‘scan’

And so it began. I registered, installed wordpress and began to blog about my findings about caffenol. I started doing a lot of experiments with loads of different films trying to find the perfect caffenol recipe for me. It was no way scientific and somewhat chaotic, but it was so much fun. At some point I was mainly shooting Ilford Delta 400 and all my developments looked really good so I decided to stop experimenting and give this recipe a name. The Delta recipe was born.

The Delta Recipe for no scientific reason or knowing the Ph value of the mix, uses quite some amount of Vitamin C, but less washing soda then Caffenol-C-M, which I didn’t even know it existed at that time. I find it quite amusing that two Germans without knowing each other did the same thing at about the same time.

As I knew I had a recipe that works I eventually experimented again. I doubled Vitamin C, (for Ilford HP5 Plus), I tested two step developing after reading about diafine (caffeafine), tried Microfilms in caffenol (Caffenol-MICRO) and always wrote about my findings. I invited other photographers to show their work on my site, and posted my pictures in the caffenol group on flickr. I wanted people to experiment. I wanted people to slow down, have fun and enjoy anaolog film developing.

Caffenol today? It rivals other commercial developers and in many countries it is easy to buy the ingredients. The whole caffenol movement has built up great communities which help each other out if some things are not available in their country. I know quite some people that came back to film through caffenol. It is something new, even if it has been discovered decades ago. It makes your photographs even more handmade, more alive. I am proud to be a part of the caffenol world in which I met so many nice people, weird scientists and very talented photographers.

The recipes:

Delta Recipe for 1000ml stock (Delta-STD)

Mix Coffee and Soda seperate, as it makes it easier to see if the Soda is completely dispersed.

  • 1000ml (1l) Water
  • 45g Instant coffee
  • 24g Washing soda
  • 20g Vitamin C

Let solution stand for about 5 minutes to clear microbubbles.
9:00 – 11:00 minutes at 20 degrees, fix and rinse as usual.

Delta MICRO for 1000ml stock (Delta-MIC)

For high contrast Microfilms I have made some adjustments to the Delta-STD recipe, but I don’t think that I am there, yet. Here is the current recipe for 1l stock:

  • 1000ml (1l) Water
  • 22 grams instant coffee
  • 32 grams washing soda
  • 10 grams Vitamin C

Let solution stand for about 5 minutes to clear microbubbles.
9:00 – 11:00 minutes at 20 degrees, fix and rinse as usual.

Caffeafine (two step developer)

240ml Water, 7 rounded Teaspoons of Instant Coffee
100ml Water, 4 Teaspoons of Washing Soda, 2 Teaspoons of Vitamin C
Put the Coffee mix into the developing tank, agitate once per second for the first minute
leave it for another 2 minutes, agitate for 10 seconds every minute.
Pour out 100ml of Water and add the Washing Soda mix.
Agitate once per second for the first minute
Agitate for 10 seconds every minute for 9 miutes
Stand development for another 4 minutes.