Specialty coffee guru James Hoffmann recently embarked on a journey many photographers have already been on: developing photos using coffee. But if you think a former World Barista Champion settled for some Instant Nescafe as his main ingredient, think again. Hoffmann went all out.
Hoffmann is what might be referred to as a “specialty coffee influencer.” An exceedingly rare title, Hoffman earned it by first winning the World Barista Championships in 2007, and then somehow building up a YouTube channel with over 400K subscribers that is entirely dedicated to specialty coffee.
It’s safe to say that he’s forgotten more about coffee than most of us will ever know, making him the ideal person to create a bespoke caffenol recipe using real, fresh-ground, expensive espresso instead of the usual instant coffee most of us would reach for.
There are hundreds of videos out there that show the process of using instant coffee, tap water, vitamin C powder, and sodium carbonate (all together: caffenol) to develop photographic film. But almost all of these videos were created by photographers. Hoffman’s take stands out thanks to his expertise with the main ingredient in this process: coffee.
The story begins with Hoffman’s own dalliance with “old-school film photography.” When he shared this information with his followers, many of them excitedly told him about caffenol, and so he went down the rabbit hole that many of us have travelled down at some point or another.
In this video, he takes a roll of Ilford HP5 120 film that he shot at a local roastery using his Mamiya RB67 Pro S, creates his own caffenol developer using 9 double-shots of fresh-ground espresso from the roaster where he took the photos, develops the film using his (very expensive) mixture, and then reveals the results. He even takes you behind the scenes on the shoot if you stick around until the very end.
If you’ve never dived into the caffenol development process, Hoffman actually does a great job of explaining how and why this works; if you have, Hoffmann’s specialty coffee variant of the caffenol process is sure to offer some entertainment, and reveals just how far you can take this when you’re obsessive about the ingredients you use.