The Bokashi Bin. Bokashi Compost Info, Make or Buy?

Chef's Star 5 Gallon Air Tight Indoor Bokashi Bin Kitchen Compost Kit

Chef’s Star 5 Gallon Air Tight Indoor Bokashi Bin Kitchen Compost Kit

Bokashi Composting is a great small scale composting system, developed in the 1980s in Japan, that enables kitchen waste (including meat and dairy) to be composted efficiently with low odors, both indoors and outdoors. And it’s worm-free! The main items you need to do this type composting are a Bokashi Bin, and Bokashi Bran (and your kitchen scraps, of course!). We discuss Bokashi Bran over here, and consider the trade-offs between making your own, or buying. This article will specifically discuss Bokashi Bins, which are the second major item needed in this process. These, too, can be either made DIY or purchased. In this article, we will look at making your own bucket, and also some of the popular store-bought options to get you started making compost to enable you to grow healthy fruits and vegetables for your family.

A Little Bit About Bokashi Composting

Bokashi Living Bokashi Bucket Kit, our favorite Starter Kit

Bokashi Living Bokashi Bucket Kit, our favorite Starter Kit

Bokashi Composting is a simple process that uses fermentation in an anaerobic bin to process kitchen scraps and food waste, and turn them into compost material. Translation: in a sealed bucket, microbes break down food waste and produce good quality compost, and it doesn’t
(usually) smell bad!

If you have never done any Bokashi Composting at all, you may want to start with a Bokashi Compost Kit and get your feet wet. These kits typically include 1-2 Bokashi Buckets with spigots and lids, a quantity of bran, a utensil, and an instruction guide. It is somewhat akin to a homebrew beer kit, and is a great way to get started doing the composting without having to learn much.

The process does not require much work from users, and typically involves the following:

Getting the Bin Ready

  • Place food scraps in a Bokashi Bucket
  • Fill around the scraps, and over them, with Bokashi Bran
  • Press down with spatula or other kitchen utensil (potato peeler, etc.) to compress food as much as possible (the less air, the better!)
  • Repeat until entire bucket is full, finishing with a layer of Bran
  • Place airtight lid on bucket

Fermentation

  • The Bran will ferment the kitchen scraps over the course of a couple of weeks. It should not smell foul, but rather like a pickling smell.
  • Leachate, or Bokashi Tea, is a product of this fermentation process, and must be extracted every couple of days, usually by using the bin’s spigot, but we will discuss that more below. This Tea can be diluted with water, and is an excellent fertalizer
  • After a couple of weeks, the fermentation process is done. White mold may be present, but is not a concern. Blue, brown, or black mold is a concern, and if it is present, it would be wise to toss that batch.

Secondary Compost Stage

  • The Bokashi Bin is then emptied and mixed with regular garden soil, either in a garden bed if one is present, or simply in a bag of garden soil if you have no outdoor garden space. This should sit for a few more weeks, and the compost process will be complete.
  • Use the new super soil to grow fantastic flowers, fruits, and vegetables!

The Secondary Compost Stage is a downfall of the system for many apartment compost aficionados who don’t have easy access to outdoor space. The need to mix the Bokashi Compost with garden soil means that it will take up living, and it is much more easily accomplished outdoors in a garden bed, as opposed to inside an apartment. Using a bag of soil does work, but it isn’t as convenient as simply putting the Bokashi compost in the garden bed for a few weeks.


Using Two Bins at Once

Once you get rolling doing Bokashi Composting, you may find that having two buckets is a big help (note, this is different than the Dual Bucket System described below). By having two separate Bokashi Bins, you can have the first bucket fermenting while you are adding scraps to the second bucket, enabling you to switch back and forth as needed, and not have kitchen scraps piling up while you wait for your Bokashi Bucket to finish its compost process.

Similar to a Dual Batch Compost system, using two buckets for composting, staggered in time, just makes for a much more efficient process. That said, if you have a small family, or don’t generate much food waste, then a two bin system may not be as valuable to you.

Make Your Own DIY Bokashi Bin

If you would like to make your own Bokashi bucket, there are a couple of ways to do it We will discuss both ways here.

Using Dual Buckets

By inserting one bucket with holes in it inside another solid bucket, the tea can be extracted from bucket one, into bucket two, without much difficulty.

  • Pick up two 5 gallon buckets with tight-fitting lids from your local Home Center, these typically cost under $10/each
    • Bucket One Will Hold the Compost and Bokashi Bran
    • Bucket Two Will Catch the Compost Tea
  • Flip over Bucket One, and using a power drill and a 1/4″ bit, drill 30-40 holes in the bottom of the bucket to allow the compost tea to drain out of the bucket, but to prevent the compost itself from going through the holes
  • Place Bucket One inside Bucket Two, and begin adding compost and follow the steps outlined above.

When you begin the compost process, and start extracting the Bokashi Tea every couple of days, press down on the compost material with a spatula or other utensil, and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. It will drain through the holes, into Bucket Two. You can then take the Tea out of Bucket Two, dilute it with water, and use it as plant food.

Problems with this Method

The Two Bin Method is quite inexpensive and easy to set up, but you’re more inclined to spill the Bokashi Tea, with buckets with holes drilled in them, dripping and all that. Also, it is not as well sealed as a bucket system with a spigot, so it will likely smell a bit more, and the process may not be as effective as it would be in a more fully sealed environment.

That said, this system works just fine, and is certainly quite cost effective. If you’re going to be doing your Bokashi Composting entirely outside, then it is much easier to deal with this sort of system, as you’re not going to be so concerned with cleanliness, as opposed to if it’s in your kitchen.


Using One Bucket and A Spigot

Barrel Spigot

Barrel Spigot

By using only one Bokashi Bin, and installing a spigot into the bucket at the bottom, you remove the need for the two bucket system, and also have a handy spigot to extract your Bokashi Tea. This is the way virtually all pre-made Bokashi Buckets work, with the built-in spigot, and it is a much more elegant way of working.

  • Pick up a single 5 gallon bucket with a tight-fitting lid from your local home improvement store, and a barrel spigot.
  • Using a drill and a (typically) 1 1/4″ bit, drill a hole in the side of the bucket, about 1 1/2″ above the bottom of the bucket.
  • Threat the spigot into the bucket, ensuring the rubber washers cover the whole completely and give a good seal

It is also helpful to raise the compost material a few inches off of the bottom of the barrel, and this method does not do this. You may have something you could poke holes in and place in there in your kitchen– a plastic take out container, a food storage container, etc. — or you could pick up something along the lines of one of these trays, but make sure to measure the bottom of your bucket to determine the size.

Problems With this Method

Installing your own spigot can be a little bit difficult for those not used to the task. These spigots often develop leak problems over time, and there’s not a whole lot that can be done. In fact, even several of the commercially available Bokashi Bins have issues with leaking around the spigot.

Purchasing a Commercially-Available Bokashi Bin

In this section, we will look at a few pre-made Bokashi Bins that you can purchase, and also consider the option of using a Hombrew Beer Bucket.

Chef’s Star 5 Gallon Bokashi Bucket Kit

Chef's Star 5 Gallon Air Tight Indoor Bokashi Bucket Kitchen Compost Kit

Chef’s Star 5 Gallon Air Tight Indoor Bokashi Bucket Kitchen Compost Kit

If you don’t need Bokashi Bran, and are only looking for a Bokashi Bin, then the Chef’s Star 5 Gallon Bucket set may be useful to you. The set includes a 5 gallon bucket with tight-fitting lid and handle, a spigot, a utensil, and a screen to help keep the compost off of the bottom of the bucket.

The downfall of this bucket is the spigot, and some users have run into issues with the spigot leaking. If you want to go with this bucket, bet gentle with the spigot, and you should be fine. You also have the option of picking up an additional rubber washers to try to improve the seal on the spigot.

For more information on the Chef’s Star package, please see our Bokashi Bucket Kit review here.


SCD Probiotics B100 All Seasons Indoor Composter

SCD Probiotics All Seasons Compost Bucket

SCD Probiotics All Seasons Compost Bucket

The SCD Probiotics B100 Bucket is a well made Bokashi Bucket with spigot, screen, and lid included. This spigot works pretty well, though it is positioned rather highly on the bucket, which is a little strange. And some users still complain that the spigot leaks, so we still encourage uses to be gentle.

It’s easy to get a cup underneath, though, and it’s not a bad idea to keep one there in case the spigot leaks at all.

While it’s called and Indoor Composter, this bucket can be used both indoors and outdoors, and includes a handle for easy movement of the bucket where you need it to go.

It’s not cheap once shipping is added in, however, and some competitors sell whole kits including bran for the same price as just this bin, so it may not be an ideal choice for many.


A Homebrew Beer Bucket

Homebrew Beerkashi Bin

Homebrew Beerkashi Bin

There are a lot more Homebrewers than there are Bokashi Composters out there, and consequently materials for homebrewing tend to be cheaper than Bokashi materials! You can find many homebrew buckets with spigots attached online, and this one by Chicago Brew Werks is a good choice at a good price. This unit has the spigot all installed, and you are pretty well ready to go with it.

Don’t forget to cover the hole at the top that is designed to allow air to escape from the brewing beer. And definitely don’t forget to tell your friends that the bucket isn’t filled with a new batch of West Coast IPA, or they will be surprised if they pour themselves a taste of Bokashi Tea!

You’ll still need some sort of insert (such as this one) to raise the compost off the bottom of the bucket a few inches. Again, depending on which bucket you choose, you’ll need to find an appropriate screen size to fit on the bottom of the bucket.

Conclusion

Whether you want to purchase a kit with everything you need, or go completely DIY, and make your own bins and Bokashi bran, you can go as deep as you’d like. The Bokashi composting system is pretty simple, though we do want to remind readers that the second stage where the compost is mixed with soil is a stumbling block for those who are apartment dwellers with no garden space.

For more information on Bokashi Kits, you can see our comments here. And for Bokashi Bran, take a look at our article here.

Good luck and may you make great compost!

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