The Ultimate Guide to Bokashi

Bokashi is a method of composting that uses bran to help the organic matter break down. After 10 to 12 days, the Bokashi waste has decomposed. At that point, you can add it to an outdoor compost pile, put it in your plants’ soil, or create bokashi tea.

If you wanna start composting in your apartment or small place, bokashi is one of the best methods you can choose. In this guide, we will elaborate what is bokashi, how to do it and how to avoid potential issues during you composting journey.

Just keep reading to learn more!

What Is Bokashi?

To start Bokashi composting, you have to introduce a host medium. This is commonly an organic grain or grass-like material. Some examples include bran, wheat, rice, sawdust, or dried leaves.

Bokashi can compost all sorts of food scraps, like meat, cheese, fat, processed foods, and more. When you add your kitchen waste to a Bokashi bucket, you’re not only eliminating food waste from a landfill, but you’re creating healthy compost for your plants.

The Bokashi fermentation process eliminates odors and deters pests. It’s also not messy, because the bucket has a lid to seal everything inside. When you need to release the leachate that develops, you open the spigot so it can leave the bucket.

While your food scraps are fermenting, they’ll look pickled. It’s deemed pre-compost at this stage because it’s still too acidic to come in contact with plants’ roots. You have to wait anywhere from two to four more weeks to safely use it in your garden.

a woman is making bokashi composting


Bokashi Composting vs. Traditional Composting

Traditional composting needs space outside to create a large pile. You can also use a compost bin to keep your materials contained. Even though you’re maintaining the compost by turning it and sometimes adding water, it takes months before it’s viable.

You can add both green and brown organic matter to traditional compost piles. Green organic material includes grass clippings, food scraps, and fruits and vegetable rinds. Brown organic material includes dried leaves, sticks, branches, and manure.

Traditional composting requires you to turn the material every so often. This lets oxygen into the pile to help break down the waste. 

Bokashi composting is anaerobic, which means it doesn’t need any oxygen at all. You seal the Bokashi bucket and leave it alone for two weeks until the process is complete.

You can’t add meat or dairy products to traditional compost piles. This type of food waste attracts pests. It can also introduce mold, bacteria, and pathogens into the compost pile.

Bokashi composting can handle meats, dairy products, fat, bones, and more. If you can’t put it in a traditional compost pile, you’re most likely able to put it in a Bokashi bucket.

The process of Bokashi composting is more environmentally friendly than traditional composting. It not only uses more food waste, but it retains more nitrogen than traditional methods. Nitrogen is vital for plants because it makes up chlorophyll, which helps plants photosynthesize

Bokashi composting also produces less carbon dioxide. Too much carbon dioxide in the air is poisonous for humans and has detrimental effects on the atmosphere.


How Does Bokashi Composting Work?

Bokashi composting calls for a bucket and food scraps. You also need a host medium, which is typically some sort of Bokashi bran. Mix some bran into your food scraps as you add them to the bucket. When you’re ready to seal the bucket, sprinkle another handful of bran on top of the materials.

After sealing the Bokashi bucket, you have to wait anywhere from 10 to 12 days. During this time, the kitchen waste is pickling in the bucket. As a result, it creates a byproduct of leachate.

Leachate is water that has worked its way through the food scraps. It leaches out some of the minerals from the waste. The liquid forms naturally from any water that the food scraps retain. You’ll release the spigot on your Bokashi bucket to eliminate the leachate.

Gardeners call this leachate Bokashi juice. If you dilute it with water, you can use it as fertilizer while you wait for the fermentation to finish.

Bokashi composting is an anaerobic process, which means it doesn’t need exposure to oxygen. You prevent a lot of oxygen from entering the Bokashi bucket when you seal the lid tightly.

You can eliminate air pockets by pressing your food waste firmly into the bin when you add more. You can push it flat with a plate, then leave the plate on top of the compost to keep oxygen from reaching the scraps when you open the lid to add more.


What Are the Benefits of Bokashi Composting?

Bokashi composting offers many benefits for your home and garden.

Odorless

Bokashi buckets have an air-tight seal, so you won’t smell compost in your house. When you open the bucket, you’ll smell a hint of vinegar or kimchi. Some gardeners compare it to the smell of pickles or home-brewed beer.

Year-Round Compost

Maintaining an outdoor compost pile is difficult in the winter because there’s no heat helping the compost decompose. It’s also tough to get out in bad weather and care for your compost pile. When you use a Bokashi bin, your compost stays contained, so it’s unaffected by weather.

Easy to Make and Maintain

Traditional composting requires constant upkeep. You have to add organic wastematerial, keep the pile moist, and turn it periodically. Bokashi compost only requires you to put food scraps in a bucket, add bran, and prevent oxygen exposure for a week or two.

Affordable Option

Some compost options require expensive products, like electric composters. Bokashi composting is affordable because all you need is a five-gallon bucket or bin and Bokashi bran.

Works Quickly

You can add food scraps to your compost bin at any time. Once you seal it up, the fermentation process begins. It takes anywhere from 10 to 12 days to create compost. In the meantime, you can siphon out the leachate and use it as liquid fertilizer.

Eliminates Food Waste

Not only will you feel better composting your food waste instead of throwing it into a landfill, but there’s no real limit to what you can compost. Unlike other methods, you can use dairy, meat, and fat in Bokashi compost.


How to Prepare for Bokashi

If you like the simplicity of Bokashi composting, here’s what you need to prepare.

1) Bokashi Bin/Bokashi Bucket

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 for eliminating leachate. It’s much easier to open the spigot instead of trying to pour out the Bokashi juice.

2) Bokashi Bran/Effective Microorganisms

Bokashi requires a host medium, so you need to have some on hand before you start. You can choose from Bokashi Bran, which comes in two-pound bags.

You can also use effective microorganisms, also called EM. You can find it as a liquid concentrate at garden stores.


Step by Step Guide to Do Bokashi

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

Step 1: Add Scraps to the Bucket

Collect your food scraps and mix them with Bokashi bran when you add them to the bucket. Remember, you can use all food scraps, even meat, fat, and dairy.

Step 2: Add Bokashi Bran and Squish Down

Once you have food scraps in the bottom of your Bokashi bin, sprinkle another handful of bran on top. Use a plate or something sturdy to push down all of the compost. This crushes air pockets that would otherwise encourage bad mold to grow.

Step 3: Continue Adding Food Scraps Until the Bucket is Full

Repeat steps one and two each time you add food scraps. You should always sprinkle Bokashi bran on top of the compost, and you need to push it down to eliminate oxygen.

Step 4: Drain Liquid Off

Every other day you’ll have to drain the leachate out of the compost. You can use this compost tea as a fertilizer right away if you dilute it with water first.

Step 5: After Two Weeks, Bury in a Fallow Spot of Your Garden

Find a fallow spot in your garden where you haven’t planted anything for some time. Bury the Bokashi compost so the soil can neutralize it.

Step 6: Add to Your Garden Soil

It takes anywhere from 7 to 14 days for Bokashi to lose its acidity. About two weeks after you’ve buried it, you can use it to fertilize your plants.


Recommended Tools for Bokashi

These product reviews cover items that can help your Bokashi composting process. If you decide to start composting, there are two bokashi composting kits we recommend:

1. SCD Probiotics Bokashi Composting Kit

This SCD Probiotics Bokashi Composting Kit has everything you need to get started. You get a five-gallon bucket with an airtight lid and a spigot to drain Bokashi tea. The kit includes a 2.2-pound bag of Bokashi bran. 

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Because you only have one bin, you might want to try this compost hack: mix semi-mature compost into the soil after three or four weeks. 

If you don’t have yard space for this, you can use flower pots. Mix soil and compost together so the Bokashi compost will start neutralizing. This frees up your bucket so you can start a new batch of compost.

Key Features

  • Five-gallon bucket with an airtight lid
  • Spigot to easily drain leachate
  • 2.2-pound bag of bran included
  • Compact enough to keep in your kitchen
  • Bucket made from recycled plastic


2. Bokashi Living Bokashi Composting Kit (Includes 2 Bokashi Bins)

The Bokashi Living kit is more expensive than the SCD Probiotics option because it offers twice as much of everything.

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You might not think you need two Bokashi bins, but that gives you the chance to continuously ferment your compost. With just one bin, you’ll have a period of 10 to 14 days when you need to let the compost sit. You won’t have anywhere to keep your other food scraps.

Key Features

  • Two bins allow for continuous composting
  • Includes two 2.2 pound bags of Bokashi bran
  • Each bucket has a spigot to drain leachate
  • Company provides a one year warranty
  • Booklet with composting tips included


Troubleshooting

If your Bokashi compost isn’t turning out right, consider troubleshooting to see where you went wrong.


How to Avoid a Bokashi Composting Fail?

You need to make sure you’re adding enough bran or EM to the bucket each time you add food scraps.

You should also reapply the lid tightly to reduce the chance of harmful bacteria entering the bucket.

Remove Bokashi leachate every other day. Otherwise, the liquid could create mildew and drown the helpful bacteria.

If your compost turns out, you can start a new batch immediately in the same bucket. If your compost decayed, you need to wash the bucket before you reuse it. Otherwise, the same harmful bacteria will grow again.

Make sure that everything you add to the bucket can compost, or else you’re wasting space in the bucket and potentially ruining your compost.

Don’t add detergents or chemicals to the bucket or compost. This kills off the helpful mold and bacteria needed for fermentation.


How to Evaluate Whether Bokashi Is Successful or Not?

Learning about Bokashi composting will help you successfully compost your food waste. Even if you’ve successfully made one batch of Bokashi compost, you could fail with the next. You have to carefully follow all of the steps each time.

Signs of Fermentation Success

You want to see white mycelium growing in your Bokashi bucket. This is a helpful fungus that has white, thread-like roots spreading across your compost.

You want to smell a scent like vinegar or kimchi. It’s a strong smell, but it doesn’t disgust you or make you think of rot and decay. It smells natural like your compost is pickling.

Signs of Fermentation Failure

If your Bokashi fermentation has failed, you’ll see that all your compost is green or black. While white mold is a good sign, darker molds mean your compost is rotting.

Because your compost is rotting, it will smell that way. You’ll feel sick when you open your Bokashi bucket. You shouldn’t use this compost in your garden.


FAQs

You’ve learned all about Bokashi composting, but in the case of lingering questions, these FAQs will help.


1. Does the Bucket Need to Be Opened During the Maturation Process?

You don’t need to open the bucket often because oxygen will disrupt the fermentation. You can open it every week or two to check for water droplets. If you see droplets on the lid, then you need to let the liquid evaporate before you close it back.

Because you use bran and EM in the compost, you don’t need oxygen for the microorganisms to decompose the Bokashi waste. It’s possible to use both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria in your Bokashi bucket so they can work together to quickly decompose your waste.


2. Do Bokashi Bins Smell?

No, there is no foul odor with Bokashi bins. The lid is airtight, so you won’t smell anything in your kitchen. Even when you open the bucket, there’s only a faint smell of vinegar.

If your bin smells, your compost has harmful bacteria growing. You should dump it out, clean the bin, and start a new batch of compost.


3. How Long Does Bokashi Take To Compost?

The materials in a Bokashi bucket will turn to compost in anywhere from 10 to 12 days. At that point, the material is still highly acidic. Burying it in your garden for two weeks gives it time to neutralize so it won’t harm your plants.

Remember that you should drain the leachate from the bucket every other day. You can dilute this compost tea with water and use it as plant fertilizer while you wait for your compost to mature.


4. Do Bokashi Bins Attract Rats?

No. Bokashi bins have airtight lids that prevent pests from getting into your compost. Rats also don’t like the faint vinegar smell that Bokashi creates, so they don’t want to eat those food scraps anyway.


5. Can You Keep a Bokashi Bin Outside?

Yes, as long as you keep it in the shade. Direct sunlight will add too much heat to the mix and can disrupt the natural fermentation process.

Because Bokashi bins are relatively small, you can keep them inside. Many gardeners prefer to keep them in the kitchen, so they don’t have to make trips outside to compost food scraps. Since the lid is airtight, you don’t have to worry about a compost smell in your kitchen.


Final Thoughts

Bokashi compost is an easy way to make natural fertilizer for your garden. Because this method of composting uses such a variety of food scraps, you’re cutting down on waste.

The buckets are small enough to keep in the kitchen, so you never have to walk outside to compost your scraps. With an airtight lid, you don’t have to worry about odors disrupting your home life.

An extra benefit of Bokashi composting is the leachate the compost produces as it ferments. Every other day you can drain the leachate, dilute it with water, and use it to fertilize your plants.

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