Bokashi Composting: A complete step-by-step guide

Bokashi Composting: A complete step-by-step guide

What is Bokashi Composting?
Bokashi  (the Japanese word for fermented organic matter) composting is an anaerobic process of fermenting food waste by mixing it with beneficial microbes usually in the form of bran, and letting it sit in an airtight container for two weeks. We use rice bran sourced from a local organic farm for our bran recipe.  A Bokashi composter will easily convert all your organic matter, including dairy products, egg shells, meat, and any organic waste into compost and fertilizer on your kitchen countertop.

With only a little bit of space and about two weeks, you will have turned your kitchen scraps into nutrient-dense soil amendment - without the wait, the fuss, or the smell of a traditional backyard compost pile. It’s a versatile, simple method that works with every kitchen - regardless of how much or what kind of food you want to recycle.


Why is Bokashi better than other traditional composting methods?

Bokashi composting can be done from the comfort of your home, unlike compost piles or a worm farm.  This is a huge benefit when the weather is not the best and the idea of going outside is not very appealing....Weekend mornings or when it's dark after dinner comes to mind.  You can also bokashi compost year-round, even in the winter months!


How small should the food scraps be?

Make sure to break the matter into small pieces and do your best to use small bones.  The smaller the better, many people use a cutting board or scissors to achieve this.  Large materials will take longer to break down and might slow the bokashi process.


Why are there two Bokashi buckets?

We’ve included two Bokashi composting buckets so you never have to pause the composting cycle. Most households will fill a bucket with food waste in about two weeks. At that point you will set aside the first bucket for two weeks for fermentation and you can start filling the second bucket. When it’s time to empty the first bucket into the garden, the second one is likely filled and ready to be set aside. And the whole process begins again!


What are the accessories for?

The cup is for draining Bokashi tea, which collects in the bottom of your BokashiPro bucket. The masher is for pressing down the layers of food waste as you add them.


Will I need anything else before I start composting?

You will need Bokashi bran, which you can either buy (a quick online search will find many options) or you can make your own. Making your own takes 2-3 weeks. About Bokashi Bran


Where do I buy bran?

It’s easy to find Bokashi bran online. Just search for “Bokashi bran” and plenty of options will pop up. You may also be able to find Bokashi bran in person at a gardening or natural living store.


Can I make my own Bokashi bran?

Absolutely! In fact, we recommend it. It’s simple and it will save you money. For DIY Bokashi bran you’ll need two specialty ingredients: “EM-1 effective microorganisms” and “bulk wheat bran”. You’ll find plenty of options in an online search, or you may also find EM-1 and wheat bran in person at a gardening or natural living store.


How do I store the bran?

Store Bokashi bran in an airtight container in a cool, dry spot out of direct sunlight (a cupboard or a pantry, for example). Bokashi bran is shelf stable for up to two years when properly stored.


How much bran do I add?

You want to spread a thin, even layer of bran every time you add a new layer of food waste. Approximately 1 heaping tablespoon of bran for every 1-inch layer of food waste. So for a 2-inch layer, spread 2 tablespoons of bran. When in doubt, add more - it won’t hurt the process in any way and it may help. It’s a good idea to use a little extra bran when you are adding meat, dairy or bones.


Are there other uses for Bokashi bran?

Absolutely! Feel free to make an extra-large batch because Bokashi bran is useful indoors and out.  Bokashi Bran makes a great natural Compost Activator for your indoor and outdoor compost setups 


● You can use it in pet areas to help control odor. Just add a handful to pet bedding or cat litter boxes.

● You can add it to chicken coop bedding to absorb moisture or even add it to the chickens’ feed to reduce the acidity of their droppings.

● It’s a great addition to planters and garden beds, adding microbes that are a necessary part of healthy garden soil.

● Or you may want to add it to a traditional backyard compost pile to help speed up decomposition.


Filling the Bokashi Bucket How long does the whole process take?

In a typical household, it will take four weeks to recycle food waste into usable soil amendment: two weeks to fill the bucket, and two weeks to ferment.


What goes into the Bokashi bucket?

Bokashi composting is remarkably versatile and can handle almost any kind of food waste, including dairy, meat, and oils. For best results, try chopping all the food waste into small, even pieces about 1 to 2 inches in size. And you’ll want to add a little extra bran when adding animal products like meat or cheese. Bones and seafood shells are OK, just keep in mind that they will take significant time to break down, even with Bokashi. There are a few things you want to avoid adding to your Bokashi bucket.


● Liquids. The food waste will not ferment properly if it is too wet, so don’t add liquids like broth, milk or salad dressings.

● Moldy/rotted food. Adding food that has dark mold can upset the microbe balance in the Bokashi bucket and might leave you with failed Bokashi.

● Non-food items. Organic materials like paper towels or coffee filters won’t hurt your Bokashi compost, but they won’t ferment like food will. It’s up to you if you want to add them. Do avoid adding synthetic materials such as plastic.


What do I do when the Bokashi Bin is full?

If there is room left at the top, press something flat like a plastic bag or old dinner plate down on top of the food waste to keep air out. Seal the lid on tight and set the bucket in a spot where it will be as close as possible to room temperature and out of direct sunlight. This spot can be in a garage, in a shaded outdoor area or - as many people find most convenient - in your kitchen or pantry. Because the BokashiPro bucket is airtight you won’t have trouble with odor or pests, so it’s no problem to keep the bucket inside while it ferments. You will be draining the compost tea every few days and filling your other composting bucket in the meantime.


What if I don’t fill the bucket within two weeks?

Not to worry, it’s fine to take longer than two weeks to fill your Bokashi composting bucket. Just keep adding layers of food and Bokashi bran. It’s also OK to seal up the composting bucket for fermenting before it’s full. This could be a good option if you simply don’t have a lot of food waste or if a completely full composting bucket is going to be too heavy for you to lift. Use something flat - like a plastic bag or an old dinner plate - to keep air away from the food scraps. Press the plastic or plate down firmly over the entire top layer of food before sealing the lid on tight and setting the bin aside to ferment.


Opening the Bokashi Bucket Why does the food still look the same after two weeks of fermentation?

After two weeks of “rest” you may open your Bokashi composter to see… pretty much the same food you put in there a couple of weeks ago. An apple core will still look like an apple core. This is completely normal since the food wasn’t decomposing, it was fermenting. Think pickles or kimchi. The food waste is likely soft and smells vinegary. It is now ready to be dug into your garden, potting container or compost pile to continue on its speedy journey towards rich soil.


Can I leave the Bokashi in the bucket longer than two weeks?

Yes, this is fine. More time won’t hurt as long as the bucket is airtight, not exposed to extreme temperatures and not too wet.


I opened the bucket after two weeks and I saw mold. Is that OK?

White mold is perfectly OK. It’s actually a sign that the Bokashi microorganisms are doing their work. You may even see white mold on the soil after you incorporate Bokashi compost into the garden. That is all fine. You do not want blue, black or green mold, however. Dark mold tells you the environment in the bucket was probably too wet. You’ll need to discard the failed Bokashi (burying it in an unused spot in the garden or in a backyard compost pile is OK), rinse the bucket well, and start again.


What should it smell like?

You will likely smell a yeasty, sweet, or slightly sour smell when you open the Bokashi bucket. It can smell like vinegar or something sweeter, like cider. These odors are all normal results of the fermentation process. What you don’t want is any strong, foul, rotting smell. That is a sign the fermentation did not work. You will need to discard the failed Bokashi (burying it in an unused spot in the garden or in a backyard compost pile is OK), rinse the bucket well, and start again.


How do I know the bucket is ready to be emptied?

If it’s been at least two weeks, you don’t smell anything foul and don’t see dark mold, you are good to go! Your Bokashi bucket is ready to be emptied. Emptying the Bokashi Bucket


My Bokashi fermented for two weeks, can I plant with it right away?

Not quite yet. Now that your food waste is fermented, it will break down very quickly into a rich soil amendment. But it’s still too acidic to come into contact with plant roots. You want to dig the Bokashi into a garden bed or potting container and leave it for two weeks. After two weeks the pH will have normalized and the Bokashi-amended soil will be ready for planting. Don’t worry if you can still see some of the food from the Bokashi bucket in the soil. It can take a month or two for the fermented food scraps to completely break down in cooler weather.


Can I feed Bokashi to my worms?

Yes! Many people have found that worms love Bokashi. It may take an adjustment period of 2 to 3 weeks for the worms to actually start eating the Bokashi. To help with the adjustment process you may want to start off with small amounts or add extra “brown” material along with the Bokashi in the beginning.


What do I do in the winter?

As long as you can work the soil your best option is to continue to dig the Bokashi into your garden beds or potting containers over the winter. Even if you’re not planting, you will be getting the soil ready for a fantastic spring garden. If the ground freezes where you live and digging isn’t an option, there are still a few ways to keep Bokashi composting going year-round.


● Let the Bokashi complete its transformation above ground by mixing the Bokashi with dirt in a large container that can be stored almost anywhere, even indoors. This is called a “soil factory”. There are a number of very good tutorials online. ● Add the Bokashi to a backyard composting bin or pile.

● Store the Bokashi in airtight containers somewhere out of the way - a garage, basement, patio, etc. - until the ground thaws. After the fermentation cycle is complete the Bokashi will remain stable for months. It’s OK if it gets cold or even freezes as long as you avoid big temperature swings. Just check periodically that it isn’t getting too wet inside the buckets. You can add layers of newspaper or paper towel to the top or bottom of the containers to absorb any moisture.

● Freeze your kitchen waste during the winter instead of composting. When you’re ready to start the composting process simply thaw the food scraps and fill the Bokashi bucket the same way you normally would - adding Bokashi bran and pressing the air out of each layer. If you fill the bucket very quickly you may want to give it extra fermenting time before digging it into your garden.


About the Tea What is Bokashi tea?

Bokashi tea or Bokashi juice is the leachate or liquid that is produced during fermentation. The tea is nutrient-dense and can be used as fertilizer. The BokashiPro bucket is designed to collect the tea in the bottom (beneath the strainer). The spigot makes it easy to collect the tea during the two weeks your Bokashi is fermenting.


How often should I drain the tea?

The average is every 2 to 3 days - but it depends on what you have in your Bokashi bucket. Vegetables and fruit will generate more liquid than starchy items like pasta and bread. The important thing is to make sure the Bokashi tea doesn’t accumulate above the level of the strainer. If that happens, your Bokashi will be sitting in liquid and the fermentation process can be ruined.


What can the tea be used for?

Bokashi tea is rich with microbes and even pouring it down the drain can be useful!


● It’s an excellent fertilizer. Dilute 1 part Bokashi tea with 100 parts water

(approximately 1 teaspoon of tea in 2 liters of water) and use it to water plants indoors or out.

● Add the tea full strength to your backyard compost pile to give the composting process a boost.

● Pour Bokashi tea into the sink, tub or toilet - the effective microorganisms will help clear out slow, gunky drains. How long can I store the tea? You can try refrigerating or even freezing the tea to make it last longer, but generally, you want to use it within a day for best results.



Happy gardening

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