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How To Develop Film with Coffee

If you want to spice things up in the dark room, you can always develop film with coffee.

You may have heard the rumor that you can develop film using Orange Juice. Both Mythbusters and photography-loving forum members have argued that this is not the case. But you can develop film with coffee and Vitamin C powder, and in doing so tap into your inner MacGyver! 

Collect your supplies.

To develop film with coffee you're going to need the following: instant coffee, vitamin c powder, washing soda, 2 gallons of room temperature water, fixer, a drop of dishwashing liquid, daylight developing tank and reel, a roll of exposed film, a bottle opener, scissors, measuring beakers (a 16 fluid oz one), measuring spoons, 2 glasses, a spoon, a timer, 2 clothes pins, and a clothesline or coat hanger.

Mix everything together.

We're going to make 12 ounces of developer since that's what you need for a role of 35mm film. Grab your glass. Take the vitamin c and the coffee and mix them together with 6 ounces of water. Then, in a separate glass, mix together 6 ounces of water with washing soda. Now combine your two liquids in your 16 oz beaker. Wooie, that smells, doesn't it? But that's what it takes to develop film with coffee.

Make the fixer.

Follow the instructions on the fixer solution packaging. Make enough to fill your tank and set it aside for later. In a separate container, dissolve a drop of dishwashing liquid—a small drop!—in enough water to fill the developing tank. Set that aside too. We're almost ready to develop film with coffee! 

Make a dark room.

We're not going to assume you already have a darkroom. If you do, go there to develop film with coffee. If not, make one! Find the darkest room at your house and then put up two black garbage bags on your windows to keep out the light. We're doing this like Draculas! No light can come in, including from the cracks under your doors. Set up your supplies for easy access on a flat surface.

Ready the film.

Prepare the film as you normally would in a dark room. Just because we're going to develop film with coffee doesn't mean you can forget to turn off the lights! Get the film out of the can, cut off the film leader, and feed the film into the reel. Right hand turns first, then your left hand—turn clockwise with your hands, using your thumbs to ease the film onto the reel. You know how it goes. Turn it one more time once your at the end of the spool so that the very end of the film is loaded in. Now slide the reel onto the spindle, put it in the tank, and screw in the funnel looking part before putting on the rubber cover. 

Prep the chem.

Make sure you stocked your house with the best natural cleaning products and have an easy to clean sink because when you develop film with coffee, things get messy. Open a window too, although you don't have to. It's more of a smell thing than a pass out from the gasses thing. Get those chemicals ready to pour, and set your timer to ding after 12 minutes.

Develop the film.

Open your tank and pour in your coffee mixture. Start the timer. Agitate the container slowly and consistently for the first 60 seconds. After that, do it three times every minute. That's how you develop film with coffee like a boss!

Dump the fluid.

After twelve minutes, open the container and dispose the liquid down the sink. Then fill the tank with water and agitate six times before pouring out the H20. Do this twice more before filling the tank with fixer. Set the timer for 5 minutes and agitate 3 times every 60 seconds. You've done it; you managed to develop film with coffee!

Hang the film.

Get your clothes line or coat hanger and pin your photos with your clothes pins. You're going to want everyone to know you know how to develop film with coffee. Run your fingers on the film to wipe off any excess water, 'cause we're going to be showing off our photos soon!

Print your photos.

If you have one of the best film scanners on the market, then use it to scan your photos into your computer, or get back into your dark room to print. You can also send your film to a website like ScanDigital or ImageLab. Or just Google "film scanning." Either way, your photos are now ready to enjoy. Let everyone know that you were able to develop film with coffee. 

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