Once people start using Bokashi style composting systems, many find the process to be engaging and addictive. Soon, unfortunately, they start to run low on Bokashi Bran, and need to resupply. There are two alternatives here, purchasing pre-made Bokashi mix, and rolling your own DIY Bokashi Bran. Making your own certainly does save money, though how much depends largely on the quantities of materials you purchase. It is a fairly simple process, and can be a great project for kids and families. Read on for the recipe and instructions.
Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with purchasing pre-made Bokashi Bran as well, and later on in this article we look at a few pre-made options for those who don’t want to bother making their own.
- 1 Making Your Own Bokashi Bran
- 2 DIY Bokashi Bran Recipe
- 3 How Much Will You Save Making Bokashi Bran Yourself?
- 4 Pre-Made Bokashi Bran
- 5 Conclusion
Making Your Own Bokashi Bran
There are three main ingredients required to make Bokashi Bran, though substitutes can be used for pretty much all of them. The items are Effective Microorganisms (EM-1), wheat bran flake material, and some sort of sugar source, typically molasses.
In this section, we will look at each of the ingredients, and cover the basics of what each item does.
EM-1 is the source of the beneficial microbes found in Bokashi Bran that gives the bran its compost-devouring qualities. Without this stuff, your Bokashi system won’t go anywhere fast. The primary active ingredients of EM-1 is a wide variety of Lactobacillus bacteria, and can be helpful in a variety of gardening applications.
You could choose to make your own EM-1 material, but we feel it is much easier to just buy it. You know it’s properly made, with the correct balance of organisms, and no contaminants like you might have at home.
While this ingredient is not cheap, each bottle will make a large amount of Bokashi Bran, and the cost per pound of the bran you make at home will be significantly lower.
Typically Bokashi Bran is made up of ground up wheat bran, and this 4 pound package from Amazon will fit the bill. This stuff is not for human consumption, so keep it out of your food pantry. Various sellers on Amazon sell different quantities at different prices, so depending on what you need, you can adjust the quantity.
Also, while wheat bran is the typical material used, you can choose to use other materials such as rice bran, coffee husks, saw dust, leaf and lawn waste, etc, though these materials may not work as well as the bran. For simplicity, we suggest sticking to the bran, at least to start out with.
This is the most expensive ingredient, and is generally cheaper in larger quantities. If you shop around a bit at health food stores or pet food stores, you may be able to find wheat bran at a lower price, locally. Also, consider readily-available substitutes like coffee hulls
It is very possible you already have molasses like this in your fridge, so you may not need to purchase it. Molasses is the carbohydrate in this recipe, the simple sugar that gives the EM-1 microbes food to get them going on the wheat bran. Like the EM-1, only a small amount of molasses is required for each batch of Bokashi Bran, so one bottle will last a while. And you can always make cookies with it, too!
Like the other ingredients, you can substitute molasses with several other sugars. Simple table sugar will work, as will agave nectar. Honey will also work, though it has anti-microbial properties, so honey may not be the best choice. Typically molasses is used, and again that’s what we would advise starting out with.
DIY Bokashi Bran Recipe
You can make Bokashi Bran in any quantity you want, but a four pound batch is a pretty simple quantity that is not difficult to make, and will last quite a while. The ingredients for this recipe are:
- 2 tablespoons EM-1 microbial starter
- 4 lbs wheat bran
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 4 cups water
For this process, you will need:
- A bucket
- A sauce pan
- Plastic Bags
Making Bokashi Bran
Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly, as you’ll be using them to make the bran, and ideally you don’t want any microorganisms on your hands to contaminate the bran.
Mixing the Ingredients
- Pour warm water and molasses into a sauce pan, and stir to dissolve molasses. Heat on the stove a little bit if necessary. Once mixed, let the mixture cool if you did need to heat it
- Add EM-1 to liquid mixture (ensure water is around room temperature when you do this)
- Pour the wheat bran into your mixing container
- Add 1/2 of the liquid mixture to the container
- Using your hands, mix the liquid into the wheat bran until it clumps. Grab hand fulls of the bran as you mix, and squeeze. You’re looking for a cake-y texture, where the Bokashi bran sticks to itself, but is neither dry and crumbly, nor full of liquid.
- Add more liquid until you reach the cake consistency, being careful not too add so much liquid mixture that the Bran gets flooded with liquid.
- If you add too much liquid, balance it out with more bran until the cake-like consistency is achieved.
You’re looking for a Falafel-mix consistency, where the bran is moist and sticks together, but does not stick too much to your hands, and is not so liquid-soaked that when you squeeze the bran, liquid seeps out.
Once your mixture is on point, you’re ready for the next step.
Storing the Bran
- Pour all of the Bokashi Bran into plastic zip lock style bag(s), and squeeze out all excess air. The microbes will work best in an anaerobic environment, so the less air, the better! Use as many bags as necessary.
- Store the bran in a reasonably warm, dark environment for a minimum of two weeks. You may want to label them as Bokashi bran, in case someone should mistake this stuff for something edible. It will likely smell sweet from the molasses.
- After two weeks, take out the bags and examine them. There may be some white mold on the bran, which is not a concern, but if you see other colors of mold, you probably want to toss that batch.
- Remove the bran from the bags and spread it out on kitchen trays or parchment paper to dry completely. Leave them in the sun to help speed up the process.
- Once dry, the Bokashi Bran is ready for use!
How Much Will You Save Making Bokashi Bran Yourself?
Realistically, you won’t save a huge amount of money making Bokashi Bran on your own versus purchasing it from a supplier. If you’re doing a lot of Bokashi composting over a multi-year period, and you purchase in bulk, you could start to save a significant amount, but a four pound batch of home made bran will be a few dollars less than a four pound batch of pre-made bran.
Still, making the bran is an easy process, and if you enjoy doing home and gardening projects manually, then making bran is a great project. It’s also a good task to do with kids, to show them how the bran is made, and how the microbe-inoculated bran effects the food scraps during the compost period.
Pre-Made Bokashi Bran
Purchasing pre-made Bokashi Bran online is certainly easier than making your own, and not a whole lot more expensive. Here is a look at a few pre-made mixtures currently on the market.
Buyers should inspect their Green Texan Bokashi bran before using, as some have reported issues of mold (the wrong kinds!) with this Bran. If you see black, green, or blue mold growing on your bran, contact the company for another batch. Even with the professional stuff, there is a chance it can go… wrong. Also, this product is generally a little wetter than some of the other items we review, and consequently may be heavier per volume of bran.
The Bokashi Brothers 1kg bag hits a nice balance between product quality, price, and quantity of materials. For those who are going through loads of Bokashi Bran, you may want to start to make your own, but if you’re just getting used to the system, the Bokashi Brothers’ bran is a great choice.
No matter whether you choose to make your own or to purchase pre-made Bokashi Bran, we wish you the best in your composting journey. Bokashi Bran is a great material, and is even useful in compost tumblers or compost bins, to help control odors, and to speed the composting process.
Once you have high quality compost, high quality fruits and vegetables for your family are sure to follow.