Happy as ever before, I went down to my darkroom the other day and started my Nova color processing tank. I knew it hadn't been used for a month because I've been out travelling but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. After an hour or so, when the temperature was right, at 35'C (95F), I started printing. When I got the first test strips out of the bleach, I was stunned by the color cast, a strong brown-reddish tint.
After a few strips, I decided that there was nothing wrong with the enlarger; filters working, timer working etc, and that it had to be the chemistry. This batch of working solution was a couple of months old so I threw it away. After cleaning the tanks with lots of water and a cloth, I let them dry. I came back the next day, took out the bottles with concentrated dev and bleach and started mixing. Everything looked and smelled fine, correct color shifts during mixing and a nice-looking final mixture.
Back to the enlarger, I started making test strips again and got the same result as the day before, a strong brown-reddish cast. I started experimenting, different papers, different enlarging/dev/bleach times and increased filters. Nothing worked. I managed to find out that it is the bleach that is not working, since a developed piece of paper looks ok until I put it into the bleach (a bit pale colors but as expected). Unexposed but developed paper is not affected by the cast.
I'm using Agfa AP-94 chemistry in a Nova tank processor at 95F, with a Agfa C66 enlarger. The first batch of chemistry was mixed around New Year's and worked fine in late April. The left-over concentrates have been in half-empty, original bottles with caps tight.
Anyone have a clue? Does the bleach really give in before the dev? I've never seen it before and the guys at the store where I bought the kit scratched their heads for 15 minutes without being able to give me an answer (one of them with years of experience from Kodak labs and one from Fuji labs).