Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tales from the Bucket: Dark-Roast EM

I’ve been playing with used coffee grounds (UCG) in place of bran. Not the stuff I generate--I do drink a fair amount of coffee, but not that much, I don’t think--but coffeehouses hand the stuff out if you ask, and I frequent any number of the joints.

The last batch of caffeinated EM bokashi bran I made was, by my standards, very large: 40 cups of UCG, plus AEM and molasses and a pint or so of water. As UCG is damp-to-wet upon receipt, you need less water than in the basic recipe; other than that, and fishing out any filters (or teabags, depending on the coffeehouse), no changes need be made to the fermentation. This does require very fresh UCG, however; undesirable microbes will spoil the grounds in short order.

Takes about the same length of time to ferment UCG as wheat bran, completion judged by presence of mycelia, scent, and pH. It's tempting to dry some for use as a mulch--it looks right!--but that test shall wait until early spring, when heating the soil layer might not be altogether a bad thing. As with any EM source, it encourages hot-composting reactions when added to high-carbon (brown) materials. In contact with the scattered leaves atop my soil, and bits of same mixed in, I imagine it might burn roots in more than one sense, and my plants are already hot enough, thanks.

In a bucket, the EM+UCG encourages fermentation. Just like the bran-based stuff. I’m generous with my microbes, but no more generous with coffee-based than otherwise, and it works just as well in most situations, better in some (though not, I imagine, in a litter box or cage!).

As for the smell, any undried EM bokashi bran has a characteristic aroma. The coffee’s is stronger than the wheat bran’s, but my bokashi buckets have fair quantities of coffee grounds in them regardless, so there’s no real difference after the initial bucket-seeding. And if the smell of used coffee grounds were going to bother me, it likely would have long before now.

The only place I run into problems with UCG-based EM bokashi bran is while drying--solar drying seems so practical here in Austin, but Repulsive’s adult offspring are drawn to the scent of EM anyway, and they adore UCG, and have been known to penetrate my solar dryer to reach the stuff. Yecch! Some folks use their cars as enclosed solar dryers, but I have the same problem with that as I do with oven drying: I’m averse to filling my kitchen with odd odors, so oven-drying sweet-pickled coffee’s just not happening.

Oven-drying wheat-bran-based EM bokashi bran I’ve done, and it smells more like bran muffins than otherwise, so I can handle that. (Fairly strong undertone of kombucha during the first minutes, but not intolerable when the weather allows for open windows.) For the most part, I make my EM bokashi bran in small enough batches to use fresh, which is one less step and takes far less space, but that may not be practical for all people in all situations. In this case, I walked into a Starbucks and, on seeing their Grounds for the Garden basket empty, asked if they had any UCG. They gave me more than a bucket’s worth, double-bagged and so heavy I wished it had wheels. So I figured I might as well make a large batch. For one particular use, it wouldn’t matter if Repulsive got into it while drying--

But that’s another post, I think.

UCG as a carrier may not be the single greenest or most frugal choice, depending on your situation (transportation miles, unknown source of mixed beans, the temptation to wallet and waistline engendered by entering a coffeeshop in the first place...) But while wheat bran is cheap, free is often better, and UCG is a waste item anyway, having already served its purpose. So I thought it was worth trying.

Anyone know if songbirds are sensitive to caffeine? I know they can get drunk, at which point they fly into windows and lampposts and things. Do I have to make decaf coffee bran?



1 comment:

SoapboxDesignCo said...

I know this is an old post, but I wanted to thank you for your information and experimentation. I am just getting around to trying this.