Bokashi Composting – Here’s What You Need to Know

When I was a junior gardener, composting was not an easy concept for me. After researching and doing composting on my own, nowadays bokashi composting has become one of my favorite composting methods.

And I found most bokashi composting information online lack clear instructions or visualized guides, so I set out to fix that.

Keep reading to find out how to make bokashi composting.

What Is Bokashi?

Bokashi is an anaerobic fermentation process, which uses Effective Microorganisms (usually called EM) to ferment kitchen scraps into usable nutrients for your soil and plants.

EM is a mix of natural organisms with 3 main beneficial microbes, which stop the food waste from rotting and smelling.

When EM is infused into the organic matter like rice or wheat bran, it develops bokashi bran. Adding bokashi bran onto food scraps, they will ferment into liquid fertilizer and become pre-compost in 2-4 weeks.

Bokashi is a little like making bread. If you have the ingredients and the recipe, anyone can make it.

bokashi infographic


Where Did Bokashi Come From?

Bokashi is a Japanese word meaning “fermented organic matter”. It’s developed in the early 1980s by Dr. Teuro Higa, a professor of horticulture in Okinawa, Japan.


Bokashi Composting vs. Traditional Composting

Bokashi is a form of anaerobic fermentation rather than composting-while traditional composting decomposes waste with air and water, which normally takes months before it’s viable.

You can’t add meat or dairy products to traditional composting, because they can introduce bacteria and pathogens into the compost pile -while bokashi composting can handle meats, dairy products, fat, bones, cooked food, and more.

In short, bokashi composting is a way to quickly ferment most types of food scraps, so that they can be composted faster.


How Bokashi Composting Works?

Bokashi composting calls for a bokashi bin, kitchen waste and bokashi bran. Mix bokashi bran into your food scraps as you add them to the compost bin. When the bucket is full, it is sealed shut and set aside for 2 weeks.

During this time, the kitchen waste is pickling in the bucket, and every other day, drain off the leachate from the spigot on your Bokashi bucket. The leachate is usually called bokashi juice or bokashi tea. You can dilute it with water in 1:100 and use it as liquid fertilizer for your plants.

At the end of 2 weeks, you’ll be left with a pickled mixture which is called “pre-compost”. It can be used in a variety of ways.

bokashi process infographic


Benefits of Bokashi Composting

Less Odor

Bokashi composting won’t produce a bad smell if you do it correctly. The smell is a bit like a brewery rather than the rotted smell of a traditional compost pile.

Less Maintenance

Compared with “complex” traditional composting, Bokashi composting only requires you to put food scrap in a bucket, add bran, and prevent oxygen exposure for 2 weeks.

Works Quickly

While traditional composting normally takes a few months, bokashi composting can take as little as 2-4 weeks to be ready to use. 

Allow you to compost meat and dairy

With an anaerobic process, bokashi composting can handle meat and dairy products.

Year-Round Compost

Maintaining an outdoor compost pile is difficult in the winter because there’s no heat helping the compost decompose. When you use Bokashi composting, it’s unaffected by the weather.


Getting Started with Bokashi Composting

Bokashi composting kit is ready to make bokashi compost
Bokashi Composting Kit

What Do You Need

The kit you need to make bokashi composting is quite simple, they are a bokashi bucket, bokashi bran, and food scraps.

1, Bokashi Bucket/Bokashi Bin

You can use any large bin or bucket with a lid for bokashi composting. Garden stores have five-gallon bins and buckets at affordable prices.

It’s worth spending a little extra for a commercial bokashi bucket with an air-tight lid and a spigot, which makes the process easier and more efficient.

2, Bokashi Bran

A bag of bokashi bran usually comes with the initial bokashi kit purchase. And 1-gallon replacements cost about twelve dollars each.

3, Food scraps

Although bokashi composting accepts all food scraps, it’s still better to control the amount of meat & bones to avoid unexpected smells.

Here’s a “bokashi recipe” for you to better manage the bokashi composting process.

AcceptableSmall AmountDo Not Put In
Fruit & Vegetable ScrapsMeat & BonesPlastic of any kind
Bread & GrainsPaper towelsCompostable utensils
Dairy & EggshellTissuesCompostable bag liners
Coffee grounds & Tea bagsTwist ties, rubber bands & produce stickers
Withered flower,rotting leaves & grass
Moldy food


Step by Step Guide

Understanding the necessary steps to do Bokashi will ensure you get quality compost each time.

Step 1: Add Bokashi Bran and Scraps

Sprinkle a small amount of bokashi bran over the bottom of the bokashi bin and add food scraps in. No thicker than 2-inch layers. 

Add Bokashi Bran and Scraps

Step 2: Squish Down Scraps and Add Bokashi Bran Again

Squishing down the scraps and ensuring your scraps are as air-free as possible, and a tablespoon of bran on top. 

Squish Down Scraps
Add Bokashi Bran Again

Step 3: Press Down with a Plate and Repeat

When you’ve done with food scraps, keep air off the top layer by pressing down with a plate, and then hop on the lid and secure. Repeat as needed.

Press Down with a Plate

Note: as this is an anaerobic process, do not open the bucket every time you have scraps, just do it once a day so you do not introduce too much air into the bucket.

Step 4: Drain Liquid Off

Drain off bokashi tea every other day. It’s a wonderful liquid fertilizer. You can use it diluted 100 to 1 to water plants.

bokashi tea is ready!

Note: Use the bokashi tea within a day for the best results.

Step 5: Wait for 2 Weeks and Get Results

Once the bucket is full, leave it undisturbed for 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, open the bucket and receive a pre-compost pickled mixture.

Wait for 2 Weeks

Note: Suggest to use 2 bokashi bins. When one is sitting for 2 weeks, you can continue bokashi composting in the other.


How to Use Bokashi Composting?

1, Use as pre-compost 

If you have a garden, you can dig a trench and bury it. Leave for 2 weeks before you plant anything because initially, the bokashi is too acidic for plants.

You can also lay the bokashi into your container. Add 1/3 soil, 1/3 bokashi compost, and then 1/3 soil. Again, wait for 2 weeks before any planting.

2, Use as a compost accelerator

You can add your bokashi compost to your worm farm, where it will break down quickly and add beneficial microorganisms to your compost.

You can also add bokashi to a traditional compost pile to boost microbial activity.


Troubleshooting

Smell

Your bokashi should have a sweetly sour smell, it should not smell foul. If it does, check if you have drained off all the liquid and add more bokashi bran.

Mold

If white mold appears, it’s a good sign for successful bokashi composting. However, green, black or blue mold means the air wasn’t kept off your scraps.


Making Compost a Way of Life

In my family, bokashi composting is not only a good way to recycle food waste and make organic fertilizer, it’s also a way of life. We put two dedicated stainless steel bowls in the kitchen to collect food waste, one is for bokashi and the other is for worm castings. Composting has become part of our daily routine.

If you have kids, just engage your kids from an early age with a composting mindset and entire process, I believe it will make a good impact on their life. Composting is an incredible activity that can offer infinite in return. 


Ready To Get Started with Bokashi Composting?

Bokashi offers many benefits, and it’s also one of the best urban composter options if you live in an apartment, simple and fun. Just give it a try.

If you need more motivation and enjoy connecting with like-minded gardeners, welcome to join our Garden Alchemist Facebook community. Let’s compost “Gold” together! 😉

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