Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bokashi Quick-start

For bokashi, you need three things: an airtight container (preferably a lidded bucket with seive and spigot), bokashi, and kitchen or garden waste.


The fastest way to get started with bokashi is to buy a kit. (I have no affiliation with the company, BTW, just like the price compared to the others I saw.) Kits always contain at least one bokashi bucket—a plastic bucket with spigot and tight-fitting lid, typically with a removable seive—and many offer a second bucket and a starter bag of EM bokashi bran, marketed simply as bokashi, the bran-and-EM product that starts the fermentation process. (1) Several retailers also provide an instructional pamphlet, and at least one kit has a “mashing tool” as well, to aid in expelling excess air and fluids from waste.

DIY Bucket

But bokashi kits aren’t exactly cheap. If you happened to have a bucket with a tight-fitting lid and a spigot at the bottom, you could rig your own sieve with an overturned (non-metal) colander or something and use that. Hey, if you’re a homebrewer, you might just hit the local brew supply shop...

Austin Homebrew Supply has a nice spigot; just drill a one-inch hole and attach
this, available for $3.49 plus tax. (nut and washer included) Bet they’d have screens, too.

Note: If you’re not sure your bucket is airtight—remember, bokashi is an anaerobic process, so air is not desired—cover bokashi with a plastic sheet before fastening lid. This is also a good idea if you don’t have a whole lot of organic matter to add at the start, I’m told.


Even if you already have a lidded, spigoted bucket and seiving materials, there’s still one expense that can’t easily (2) be gotten around: the EM bokashi bran. But that’s not too terribly expensive, and again, there’s a trade-off between $$ and time spent. A 2-lb. container of EM bokashi bran runs between $10 and $20 US, depending on where you’re buying and what sort. (3) That’s enough for at least one bucket, quite likely two or three.

Or EM bokashi bran can be made at home from liquid EM inoculant plus molasses, bran, water, and optional other ingredients, and a single bottle can be used to make more EM bokashi bran than you really want to think about storing until use! One small bottle costs a bit less than twice as much as a single container of commercially packaged EM bokashi bran, plus the cost of carrier (bran, rice hulls, etc.), molasses, and any desired additional ingredients. And time.

For a beginner, commercially packaged EM bokashi bran is the better option—who wants to wait a month before starting to compost?—but I expect many converts will decide to make their own. Even at a rate of one container per month, the cost may not be prohibitive, but it does seem a tad wasteful to go buying small containers of anything!

EM America’s “recipe” gets criticized on some blogs, mostly for taking much longer to mix than it says it will, but it’s simple. Wheat bran and molasses can be purchased in bulk from grocery or feed stores.


Once you have your bucket and bokashi, you:

*Add a scoop of EM bokashi bran.

*Add kitchen waste (smaller pieces turn faster). Compress to expel air/water. Add a scoop of EM bokashi bran after each inch of waste.

*Drain bokashi juice at least twice a week and more as needed, beginning after two or three days.

*Repeat until bucket is full. Add an extra scoop of EM bokashi bran and set bucket aside to cure for ten days to two weeks. Drain as before.

*Decant into compost or curing location.

Having two buckets would be simpler. For my household and others that don’t generate a whole lot of food waste, it should be possible to just keep scraps in the fridge or freezer awhile. And I think I’m going to do that, so that I can measure how much food waste I actually produce.

Because I’d really like to know.

In a ferment,


(1) I get confused when people use the same word for product, process, and result, so on this blog, I’ll be using the term “EM bokashi bran” for the inoculant + inert carrier blend.

(2) A sometime brewer, I am suspicious of the idea that any microbial starter must be repurchased rather than maintained. But I don’t yet know enough about EM to say it isn’t so. And it may well be technically possible but so labor-intensive as to be impractical. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, the easiest obvious solution is to hit up your progressive-composting friends for a cup of inoculant.

(3) There are a number of different EM formulations and bases out there. More on that in another post.

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