Keeping a garden means you’re searching for the best way to introduce healthy organic matter to your plants. Fertilizer has the nutrients you need, but it can be expensive to buy enough for your land. Using anything with chemicals is detrimental to both you and your plants. So what’s the solution?
While there are benefits to using tea leaves in conjunction with other gardening methods, compost tea isn’t exactly what it sounds like. Compost tea is a solution made from natural materials like food scraps, leaves, and grass clippings.
The Ultimate Guide to Compost Tea Brewer
Compost is one of the most eco-friendly ways to treat your yard. Before learning how compost tea can benefit your garden, you first need to understand how it’s made. Once you see how it can help your plants, you’ll be ready to brew a batch.
What Is Compost Tea?
Compost tea is a mixture of bacteria, fungi, microbes, and nutrients that live in compost. This type of organism makes up the soil foodweb. When you soak compost in water for a day or longer, you end up with compost tea. The water leaches out beneficial microorganisms and compounds.
After letting your compost soak in water, you can use the resulting compost tea, or living water, as a weak fertilizer. You can use it to add nutrients and microorganisms to the soil structure because using compost tea is more beneficial than other fertilizers.
Not only is compost tea all-natural, but it will last much longer than commercial fertilizers. Just 15 or 20 gallons of compost tea can cover a whole acre of land instead of needing hundreds of gallons of fertilizer.
What Are the Benefits?
The benefits of compost tea are many for plants. When you make the tea, you’re diluting the microorganisms found in compost. After a soil drench, the plants can use these soluble nutrients immediately. They don’t have to break down the organic material themselves as when you put compost on the soil.
Because compost tea is a liquid, you can use it on soil for all of your houseplants without any of the mess associated with solid compost. Both you and your plants will benefit from the lack of harsh chemicals.
You can also use compost tea as a foliar spray. Spray it on plant leaves to protect them against disease. The beneficial microbes in the solution can decrease the number of nasty bugs found on leaves. People using compost tea have found it works incredibly well on gray mold and mildew.
Spraying plants with compost tea can also deter pests. The microorganisms benefit the leaves topically. It also prevents bugs and critters from taking bites out of your plants and leaving them to die.
Using compost tea will strengthen the soil on your land. You’re adding nutrients and organic material to the earth to balance the pH levels. Using compost tea also helps your soil with water retention, which will benefit plants and grass in the long run.
Because compost tea will make your plants healthier, they will be more resistant to disease. Some gardeners say that spraying compost tea has even helped heal some surface-level deterioration they saw on plants.
What Is a Compost Tea Brewer?
Compost tea brewers are simple machines that store and aerate your compost tea as it brews. They are generally easy to make if you have a bucket and either stir or connect an air pump to aerate the solution for you.
You store traditional compost tea in a bucket for several days. People would stir it several times a day. However, using an air pump ensures your compost tea will be ready much quicker than stirring it with modern technology. It also frees you up to do other things instead of having to stir on schedule.
Does Compost Tea Really Work?
Opinions on compost tea’s effectiveness vary. Many home gardeners and farmers find that it helps their plants grow. They also say it protects the plants’ leaves against rot and disease when sprayed topically.
Other agricultural educators argue against compost tea, saying it’s not as effective as compost itself. Compost is organic material that will break down naturally, like food waste, grass clippings, and leaves. When you have a compost bin or pile, you add all of these elements together in equal amounts.
Using brown material like dead leaves and sticks will add carbon to the compost. Greens like food scraps and grass clippings add nitrogen to the compost. When you add a little water, it will break down the organic components of these elements to make nutrient-rich compost.
There are different methods of composting, like slow composting, hot composting, or vermicomposting. You can do slow composting on the ground or in a bin. It requires little to no maintenance. However, it takes longer to get useful compost from this method.
Hot composting takes more upkeep, but you’ll have rich compost in as little as a few weeks. Using a bin helps with hot composting, but it isn’t necessary. You’ll add water to the pile and turn it to ensure air is getting involved in the process.
Vermicomposting is a way to compost that uses worms to eat food waste. Because you’re using worms, you’ll need a plastic storage bin that you can seal after you drill holes for drainage. After the worms eat, they’ll expel organic material you can use for compost.
These methods require more work than making compost tea. It is also harder to carry around solid compost to use as fertilizer when compared to spraying compost tea on your land. However, you can use one of these composting methods and still make compost tea with the materials.
Many gardeners use mycorrhizal fungi to benefit their plants’ root systems, but this fungi can’t be added directly to compost tea. The fungi can’t compete with other microorganisms in the tea, but it can be used in conjunction with compost tea.
Since using compost tea doesn’t hurt anything, it’s worth trying to make a batch of compost tea to use on your plants.
How Do You DIY a Compost Tea Brewer?
You can create DIY compost tea brewers in a cost-efficient manner. However, if this is your first time trying this method, you might prefer to buy one. That way you’ll be sure to get a machine with an air pump that can handle your needs.
You can make a very simple compost tea brewer, an average brewer, or a very complicated brewer. For the beginning brewer, you might want to try the simplest way: how compost tea got its name. All you need is a 5 gallon bucket, a burlap sack, and compost.
Put the compost in the burlap sack, which will act as a teabag. Put the bag in the bucket full of water and let it brew. You can stir the mixture to ensure the water is saturating the compost. This method will take a bit longer to brew but doesn’t cost much to make, and you’ll get to test out compost tea without investing too much time or money.
To make DIY compost tea brewers, you need 5 gallon buckets and air pumps. There are different ways to remove the tea when it’s done brewing. You can use a burlap sack or a mesh bag. If you want to install a spigot in your brewer, you can put the compost in nylon bags, like the legs cut off of pantyhose.
You will use the burlap sack the same way as in the basic brewer—as if it is a tea bag that you remove after brewing. If you’re using mesh, you will cover the top of the bucket with mesh when you’re ready to strain out the tea. It will prevent compost chunks from coming out with the liquid but might be very bulky when you’re trying to handle it.
If you’re using a spigot, you can cut a hole in the bucket where you want it to go. Place it high enough that you can put a smaller bucket or watering can beneath it to pour the compost tea into. Then you’ll be able to carry the smaller vessel as you tend to your plants.
Use an air pump similar to what you’d use in a large aquarium. You want to keep the water bubbling so oxygen will get in and activate chemical reactions that push the compost to release nutrients.
The pump will have construction instructions. You might want to add a hook to the bucket so the pump has a place to hang a safe distance from the water. The pump itself is electrical and cannot touch the water, so make sure you keep it out of the brewer itself.
The air pump’s tubes will go down into the bucket. You might need suction cups to ensure they stay at the bottom of the bucket. If they’re stuck to the bottom, they’ll aerate more of the air efficiently.
You can collect rainwater to use in your brewer. If you use tap water, ensure that the water isn’t chlorinated. If it will, you’ll have to let the bucket sit open for one day so the chlorine will evaporate. Otherwise, the chlorine will kill the soil microbes and fungi in your compost tea—but those are the beneficial organisms you need!
How Long Should You Brew Compost Tea?
Once you fill your brewer with water, run the pump for one hour to aerate the water. Then put the compost in the burlap sack or nylon bag. Add it to the brewer and aerate for about 24 hours at 72*F. The temperature will affect how long you need to brew the compost tea.
If the temperature is hotter than 72*F, you won’t have to brew the compost tea for as long. If it’s colder, then you’ll want to increase the brewing time to counteract the temperature.
Don’t let your homemade compost tea sit longer than 36 hours before applying it to soil. At that point, viruses, bacteria, and mold can start to form in the water.
What Should Compost Tea Smell Like?
Depending on your compost tea recipe, it should smell earthy, yeasty, and slightly sweet. It will smell similar to solid compost. Water will dilute the compost smell, but it shouldn’t change the scent completely.
If your compost or compost tea ever smells unpleasant or rotten, you shouldn’t use it on your plants. It might have harmful anaerobic bacteria or viruses in the water that can damage your plants instead of fertilizing them.
The Buying Guide for Compost Tea Brewer
It’s not too difficult to make your own DIY compost tea brewer. However, there’s nothing wrong with trusting the experts. You have many different commercial options available to you.
What Types of Compost Tea Are There?
There are different types of compost tea, and knowing about these variations might influence what type of compost tea brewer you want to buy.
Aerated Compost Tea
You can make an aerated compost tea brewer when using an air pump to add oxygen to the water. To make it actively aerate, you also add a microbial food source. Many people use molasses or maple syrup because the sugar inspires bacteria to grow.
However, some people don’t want to add sugar to their tea because the bacteria might run rampant. If you’re brewing compost tea at temperatures higher than 75*F, the molasses bacteria might consume more oxygen than your pump is producing. Therefore your tea won’t be as strong as it potentially could.
Since you’re using molasses for the beneficial bacteria, you can opt to use kelp or liquid fish fertilizer instead. These solutions have the same bacteria you need to help break down the compost, but they won’t use up too much oxygen. However, if you’re brewing compost tea at cooler temperatures, you won’t have to worry about this.
Non-Aerated Compost Tea
Non-aerated compost tea is made when you soak compost in water without stirring. You can put the compost in a burlap sack or nylon bag and let it sit in the water, but it will take anywhere from three to eight days for the tea to brew.
Though this method takes a longer time, it requires less effort. You can probably make non-aerated compost tea with things you have in your home right now. There’s no need to invest in supplies to make a DIY machine.
It’s possible to make non-aerated compost tea without stirring the mixture. You might want to make an effort for this essential maintenance. Stirring the tea will agitate the contents enough where mold or bacteria won’t be able to flourish.
Worm castings contain a lot of organic material that creates high-quality compost. They can effectively repel pests and boost the soil’s nutrition level. Therefore, using aerated vermicompost will give you potent tea.
Making vermicompost tea is similar to the way you make non-aerated compost tea. Instead of only adding compost to the water, add a gallon of worm castings to your 5 gallon bucket. Then add the rainwater or non-chlorinated tap water.
You can use an air stone with this method or stir it yourself. It’s best to not use an air pump because you don’t want the castings to bubble around too much. Let the tea brew for three days, and then use mesh or gauze to filter the castings from the tea when you pour it out.
Some studies have found that non-aerated compost tea has more of a positive effect on disease control than aerated tea, so you might want to try making it this way first. Because worm castings already help aerate the soil, you’ll still benefit from extra dissolved oxygen in the tea.
How to Choose a Compost Tea Brewer
When you’re ready to purchase a compost tea brewer, make sure you get the one that has everything you want. Some things to consider are:
- air stones vs. air pumps
- brewer size and shape
- brewing bags
Air stones might seem lower maintenance than air pumps, but mold can grow on them if you don’t clean them properly. They can also crack over time.
Air pumps cost more, but last longer. They require electricity, so they’ll make brewing compost tea more expensive over time. You also have to be careful to keep them away from the water and tea for safety reasons.
Choose a brewer size that will provide you with enough compost tea for your needs. You might want a large brewer so you can brew fewer batches each week. Consider the space you have available for the brewer as well. You might have unrestricted space outside, but if you want to brew inside, you’ll need to size down.
Some brewers come with square buckets. They may look unique, but this shape doesn’t help the brewing process. It can restrict the airflow of your pump or air stone. Having a continual edge for the water to bubble is more efficient than cumbersome corners.
You might want to buy a commercial brewer that comes with brewing bags. Make sure the brewing bags you use are durable. Will you be able to reuse it for several batches of tea?
If your brewer doesn’t come with bags, you can find them online from other manufacturers. You can also use items in your home, like burlap sacks, nylon bags, or pantyhose.
FAQ for Purchase
Before you buy a compost tea brewer, make sure you’ve gotten all your questions answered. Each brewer will be reviewed below, but some general knowledge can make the purchasing process easier for you.
Can You Brew Compost Tea Indoors?
Yes. Compost tea can be brewed anywhere, as long as you make sure you use the space you have available. You might be able to use a large bucket or container outside, but space will be more limited in your home. Therefore you might end up brewing smaller batches more frequently.
You can use smaller buckets or Tupperware containers inside. Keeping a small compost bin in your kitchen will make this process even easier. If you’re brewing indoors, you might find it easier to regularly stir the tea yourself instead of using an air pump that might potentially be noisy.
Brewing indoors can be beneficial in terms of temperature as well. When compost tea gets too warm, it brews quicker. But if you let it sit at a higher temperature, mold may grow. Keeping it inside means you’ll be able to monitor the temperature more closely.
Can You Make Compost Tea From Store-Bought Compost?
If you want to use your food scraps and lawn clippings to make compost, you can do that to ensure you’re environmentally friendly.
However, if you don’t have many scraps or clippings, you might not be able to make enough compost. You also might not have a place where you can build a compost pile or bin.
Regardless of your reasons, you can buy compost at home and garden stores to make compost tea. You can purchase different-sized bags according to how much tea you plan to brew.
How Long Does Compost Tea Keep?
Once you have brewed compost tea, it will keep for four to six days. This period is the same whether you’ve brewed aerated or non-aerated tea. Store the compost tea in an opaque container so light can’t get in and change the organic compounds.
The container should also have a lid that tightly seals, preventing air from getting in and causing mold to grow. However, if you want to keep the compost tea for longer than six days, you can aerate it in the storage container. Adding oxygen to the water will keep it fresh.
You can do this with an aquarium pump, as in an aerated brewer. You can also choose to add an air stone to the storage container. This is a porous stone or piece of limewood that gradually adds air to the container without needing electricity or causing large bubbles to form.
How Do You Clean Your Compost Tea Brewer?
It might not seem necessary to clean something that just gets compost and water put inside it, but you need to do some light maintenance to your brewer. Regular upkeep will ensure it lasts for a long time.
After you brew a batch of compost tea and either put it on your plants or store it in a watering can for later use, you want to clean everything the tea touches. Scrub the bucket, air pump tubing, and air stones if you used them.
Using soap and water will get any remaining bacteria and organic material off of these surfaces. You might also want to fill the bucket with hot water and add two teaspoons of bleach to be certain you’ve killed off anything that might potentially grow mold.
8 Best Compost Tea Brewer Reviews
These eight compost tea brewers are our favorites for many reasons you’ll see in the reviews. There is plenty to choose from, whether you’re a beginner or an expert. You’ll also have an assortment of sizes to choose from.
The TeaLAB brewing kit comes with a 5 gallon bucket, brew bag, air pump, and an aerator. What we love most about this option is that it comes with two tea cubes so you don’t have to have compost before you start brewing.
Each cube will brew 5 gallons of concentrated compost tea. You dilute that even furthermore with water so you end up with over 20 gallons of fertilizer from one cube! This gives you time to create a compost bin in your yard.
Another benefit is that the kit includes a chlorine test. You’ll be able to determine if your tap water contains chlorine or not. This will keep you from wasting a batch of tea by allowing the chlorine to kill off beneficial microbes and fungi.
The TeaLAB kit is truly an all-in-one option. For the first-time brewer, you’ll have everything you need to jump in and understand what you’re doing. If you’re an expert, this kit still gives you everything you need in one fell swoop—and it’s incredibly affordable.
What we like best about the BluSoak Bubbler kit is that the bucket is FDA accredited. It’s strong and durable, and users have reported it lasts for years.
On par with the bucket’s quality is the tubing system for the air pump. There are holes all along the tubes so you don’t have to worry about them becoming blocked. Blocked tubes will prevent aeration. With air reaching every water section with these unique tubes, you get more potent compost tea during the same brewing period as other machines.
This kit doesn’t come with any starting compost or cubes, so you’ll either need to have yours ready or buy compost from a garden store.
This is a smaller starter kit that will give you a chance to test out compost tea before fully committing. It includes a three-gallon bucket, an air pump, two air stones, and a spigot so you can easily drain the tea after it brews.
Though the bucket is plastic, Flo-N-Gro uses a BPA-free material that is completely recyclable. This kit doesn’t come with brewing bags, so you’ll have to buy them separately from another manufacturer.
If you need large batches of compost tea, this system isn’t ideal for you. However, if you want something small or if you’re just getting started, the Flo-N-Gro is the best way to test the waters.
This system is manufactured by Green Pro SolGreen Pro Solutions manufacture this systemutions. They have larger brewers on the market but wanted to make something suitable for home gardeners. The kit comes with a high-quality air pump, which shows that the company knows compost tea.
This pump is designed to work non-stop, so you could leave it on all the time without it wearing out. If something happens to the pump, it comes with a one-year warranty, so you’ll have good coverage as you get started.
Because Green Pro Solutions has so much experience building larger brewers, they use the same materials on this smaller version. You know you’re getting a durable brewer if you choose Dirt Simple.
The Growing Solutions kit stands out because it has a basket tray that holds compost above the bubbles from the air pump. This ensures that the oxygen directly interacts with the compost to ensure a potent tea is brewing.
Because of this system’s method, compost tea can be fully brewed in as little as 24 hours. Instead of waiting days for compost tea, you’ll have a quick turnaround with this option. A spigot at the base of the machine makes it easy to drain the tea once it’s made.
This kit has all of the good things from the five-gallon set but in a larger quantity. Buying the 15-gallon brewer is a fantastic choice if you have a lot of land to fertilize, or if you don’t want to have to brew compost tea very frequently.
The cubes included in this batch are optimized to create 15 gallons of fertilizer, and the concentrate can be diluted so it will stretch further. The air pump is a bit noisy since it is working with so much water, so you’ll want to find an out-of-the-way location for it.
The Volcano brewing kit covers up to 1.5 acres of land per batch, so the 30 gallons it makes can tide you over for a while. Because this brewer makes so much tea, it’s also a larger machine. Despite its size, it’s easy to use—the instructions are on the side of the barrel so you’ll always know what to do.
The air pump that comes with this kit is big enough for aeration, but it’s surprisingly quiet. That means you don’t have to worry about tucking this large system far from your house. It comes with a brew bag and starter set so you can put it to work right away.
If you have a lot of plants that need fertilizing, you want to go big. The Cyclone system brews 30 gallons at a time without pushing you into industrial machinery. A whirlpool inside the bin keeps the water churning so it’s always promoting aeration.
Though it’s large, this system is easy to clean and reassemble on your own. It comes with durable brewing bags and a starting kit so you can start making compost tea immediately.
With food waste making up 24% of the waste in landfills, composting is ideal for reusing what you have. Making compost tea will benefit the healthy soil your plants grow in, whether they’re indoor or outdoor plants. Spraying this solution on the leaves can also prevent disease.
It’s easy to make compost tea at home. You might choose to make a DIY brewer with the tips above or buy one of the best brewers from our list. No matter what, you’ll love how easy it is to make compost tea that will revitalize your plants and boost your soil foodweb.