How to make your own bokashi bin

A big challenge of growing in containers is keeping the soil fertile without having to buy new bags of compost each year.

Adding home made worm compost is one of my favourite solutions. But what if you don’t have space for a wormery or you’re not very fond of worms?  (Worm phobia is pretty common, I’ve discovered, since talking about worms in my workshops!)

Bokashi is another option worth you considering. It requires little space (the size of a bucket), can be done inside or outside, and only takes two weeks. What’s more, you can recycle ALL your food waste in a bokashi bin, even onion skins and cooked food, meat and fish.

What is bokashi?

Bokashi is a method of composting invented in Japan. It uses bran inoculated with EM (Effective Microorganisms) to rapidly break down food. “Bokashsified” waste can then be used to add fertility to your pots – mix it into your old compost (or put a layer at the bottom) and leave it for a couple of weeks to ‘settle’ before growing in it.

Or you can use it in conjunction with a wormery or compost heap – simply add the product of your bokashi bin to your wormery a few handfuls at a time.  I’ve started to put all the food I can’t add to a wormery into bokashi, then move this into the wormery or the bottom of a pot when ready. I also add things that are slow to break down in a wormery – like potato skins – to bokashi first. They decompose a lot faster that way.

Any drawbacks to bokashi?

The main drawback of bokashi is that you have to buy a special bran to make it. Buying a large sized bag is the most economic option for most of us. (There are recipes to make your own bran on the net but you need a large space to dry the bran.)

Bokashi is also, in my opinion, a bit less flexible and pleasant to use than worm compost. But it works well, and is still an excellent solution for many situations (and also great to use in conjunction with a wormery). Do give it a try.

How to make your own bokashi bin

To make bokashi, you’ll need a bokashi bin or two. You can buy these or it’s easy to make your own. Bokashi expert, Woody, from Bubblehouse Worms shows you how to make a low cost and effective one in the video below (check out her and Ken’s website for more info on bokashi and wormeries – and supplies for both).

If you want to compost all your waste food in bokashi you’ll need two bins. Fill one, then, while you are leaving that to pickle for two weeks, fill the other. Obviously if you just want to bokashi some of your waste food, one bokashi bin will do the job perfectly.

Your Turn

If you’ve tried bokashi, I’d love to hear how you’ve found it in the comments below. Or if you try making your own bin following Woody’s instructions, do let me know in the comments how you got on.

44 thoughts on “How to make your own bokashi bin”

  1. Hi all

    Glad I found this site! I bought a set of bokashi bins through the local council and so far only half way through filling my first bin. So far so good. I’m keeping it in the cellar and using a Tupperware box for my scraps and popping it in the fridge until it’s full (and then transferring to the Bokashi Bin). No tea yet but I’m not worried about that.

    Somehow I just can see how a 1kg bag bran should last 3months! I’m putting a light sprinkle on over each layer but it still feels like I’ll run out very soon. Has anyone had any success with making this bran at home? The EM bottle seems expensive and delivery charge high (Amazon). Just wondering if it’s worth it or to just buy a bulk ready made bag (does a 3kg bag really last 9-12months??)

    I also got quite excited and ordered this set and got to work straight away without really thinking about where I was going to dig in into the garden. We have a small garden and any soil is actually the bottom of bamboo or an olive tree (I’m thinking I shouldn’t put it near these). We have small square planters with herbs and we do have some soil at the front of the garden but that space is mainly with bulbs like tulips. Would it work if i had 2 large rectangle plastic planters and put fermented bokashi in them and cover with soil for a few weeks to completely degrade and THEN transfer to the bottom of my olive tree? Or should I avoid the bamboo and olive completely? In which case i could use it where I have my bulbs.

    Fingers crossed this all works out for me. Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Pam,

      The tea can take a while to come out, depending on what you’ve put in the bin. I’m also wondering if the cellar might not be too cold for fermentation to take place (effectively)? My bin is in a cupboard in the kitchen, which means it does get cold on a cold day, being next to the outside wall, and the amount of tea does reduce when it’s cold.

      As for what to do with the bokashi bin contents once they have been processed (your planter idea sounds fine as long as the soil covering is deep enough), I think your trees would appreciate them as much as any other plants, long as you mulch at the drip line rather than near the trunk. I’m running out of bare soil to dig for the contents of my bin, so now I put them in the compost bin (well covered) and they turn into beautiful compost.

    2. Hi Pam
      I have just started using bokashi bins again after a break. I never bought bran, I make my own which is newspapers soaked in a mixture of molasses and rice ferment liquid. I found the recipe online. It takes some effort but it may be cheaper if you can recycle newspapers. The only thing to buy is molasses. I press the food waste then cover with one-half sheet of newspaper (depending on size of your bin).
      Hope that helps.

    3. This bucket would also work well for making a concetrated comfrey tea. Just fill up with comfrey leaves place heavy brick on tops and wait

  2. Can compost from a prior bokashi bucket that has been set aside to finish be used to activate the new bucket?
    Can material from an active bucket be used to activate a new bucket?

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  4. hi,
    Many years passed since the last post here, I have read all the comments, but could not find any that explained how to create the Bokashi Mixture at home (what it consists of exactly with exact quantities to make it) without needing to buy it from their website or any other? Thanks in advance

    1. Hello Abeer, it is possible but not easy to make the mix yourself in a small space as, as far as I understand, you need a large surface area to dry the bran. So most people do buy it, it’s one of the drawbacks of this system. It’s most economical to buy in large bags. If you want a system that you don’t need to buy bran for, wormerys are another very good option. With more space there are also composting system like Green Joanna’s that work well. What was your interest in bokashi for?

  5. Great video. Just wondering where those buckets with lids were aquired? They look very suitable for the purpose and I was wondering how expensive they are and thus whether it would be economical to make my own bokashi bins versus purchasing one of the models available on the market.

  6. I am new to this composting thing but I have been doing berkly method of composting , hot composting it needs a bit of hard work but compost is ready in almost 18-20 days. I would like to know if we can increase the temp artificially , is composting going to be faster by bokashi method

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  11. We live in a flat with a balcony and have been using the bokashi system for a number of years. You have to be a bit more organised when you don’t have a garden to bury the waste to finish the composting process. Once the bin is full and has had a few weeks / months to pickle I transfer it to a large dustbin (with holes at the bottom and a large saucer underneath for drainage) I also intersperse the bokashi with sawdust (animal bedding) because I understand this helps to balance out the high levels of nitrates in the bokashi. This stays in the dustbin for a couple of months and the material composts down, this always happens faster in summer. Then the material comes out of this and into an old open litter bin, also with holes in the bottom and a saucer underneath. At this stage make sure you put a layer of sawdust on the top. After it has been in this / these for a few weeks (again it’s quicker in the summer) then it is ready to mix with organic compost and coir (I use Traidcraft), you will get some lumps but these break up easily with your hands and you will probably find the odd fruit label or elastic band that has made it through unnoticed! It takes a bit of time to find a system that works for your space but it makes you think about the amount of food waste you are creating and saves a lot of money on compost. I get the bran from bokashi direct and have found it to work very well, just keep it dry!

    1. Very interesting, Justine – brilliant to learn from your direct experience of doing this and making it work in a small space. Thanks very much for sharing.
      If you have a moment, I’d love to hear if there was any reason why you chose to use bokashi rather than a wormery? And how have you found your plants have grown in your mix of bokashi and coir?

      1. Our balcony gets really hot as it gets direct sun for quite a few hours, any worms would be cooked in a wormery! Also we like that a bokashi has more flexibility in terms of what you can put in. The plants seem to love it!

  12. I was intrigued until I read that the food doesn’t look broken down, so how can that be used on plants then? It will just look like garbage. It sounds like it has to go into something else to be regular composted if it still looks like food, so then what’s the point?

    1. You add the pickled veg to the bottom of a pot or mix it in with the compost. You then need to let it settle for a couple of weeks, but then you can grow in it. The pickled veg rots down very quickly once in the soil. Basically, bokashi vastly accelerates the decomposition process – so although you don’t get ready made compost out of it, it is well on its way. Personally I prefer to use worm compost, but bokashi is a useful alternative. I now use both – the bokashi for food that I can’t traditionally compost (eg onion skins, meat) and the wormery for everything else. Bokashi also works very well in conjunction with a wormery. If you add some of the pickled food from bokashi to a wormery it accelerated the speed of composting in the wormery.

  13. I have found that Bokashi is an excellent source for speeding up composting. I always cut my veggies and fruits into little pieces. The bokashi bucket leachate is absorbed by expanded clay. I collect these in a separate bin. Making bokashi is easy. Experiment a little to see what works best, start of small and expand if your comfortable producing a couple of bins. When you apply bokashi straight in your garden, be sure to stay away from the roots of your plants and trees. Bokashi is a very potent fertilizer and may cause damage when in direct contact.

    1. Cheers for sharing your tips and experience, Chris. I’m intrigued by the expanded clay. What do you do with that? I’ve also found it a great way to speed up composting, both in a composter and in a wormery.

      1. Expended clay pellets retain moisture levels and release the nutrients/moisture slowly. The leachate is nutrient rich and absorbed by the clay pellets. I mix the pellets before I put in the plant. The clay pellets prefent the nutrients washing away when I water the plants.

  14. I’ve just started using a bokashi bin and so far am very pleased. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to get any liquid but it has just started coming through (my bin has a tap on it).

      1. Hi Mark,

        Three and a half after my original comment, I’ve come back with a follow-up on my bokashi experience.

        I’d say the most noticeable benefit from it is the liquid run-off, which is fantastic for accelerating decomposition in my regular compost bin.

        It’s harder to say how far the soil has benefited from the bokashi solids. My soil is sandy loam and gets very dry in the summer, so vegetables just doesn’t do too well. I realise therefore that the soil needs massive amounts of organic matter, much more than I can add with my four bokashi buckets a year.

        Still, I will keep using the system as it is great to keep all compostable material in-house!

  15. Like you I use a wormery, bokashi and a compost bin. I usually bokashi everything that comes from our kitchen, than alternately put it on the wormery or compost bin with a thick layer of shredded paper on top. My wormery couldn’t quite keep up with a new load every time my bucket needed emptying.
    My local council does a very good offer on wormeries and bokashi buckets – I was happy to try them out for a small cost and have kept going for many years! My garden thrives on the compost produced.

  16. I tried Bokashi but it didn’t work. I think I didn’t put enough Bokashi bran in but it is really expensive and I was buying small bags off eBay which just didn’t do the job. In the end I buried all the food waste and noticed that it had hardly rotted down at all. I was very disappointed as it seemed like the perfect answer for a small flat.

    1. Hi Philippa, thanks for sharing your experience – its always great to hear when things don’t work as well as when they do. Yes it might be that it needed more bran to work well. I bought a large 10kg bag which was quite expensive (about £20) but has lasted me three years so far. (Admittedly I don’t bokashi all the time – I probably do 10 plus large buckets a year). Other common reasons for it not working too well are if the lid is not airtight or the food is not squashed down well (it’s an anaerobic process) or the liquid is not drained off regularly. But apart from that it should be fairly reliable as a method, I think. The only other thing explanation I can think of is that the bran you had wasn’t very good quality. I’ll ask Woody and Ken if they have any other suggestions.

      1. Hi Phillipa, sorry to hear that you were unsuccessful with Bokashi. It could be that you weren’t using enough of the bran, you need to sprinkle a layer for every inch or so of food waste. It also helps if the food is chopped up, the smaller the chunks the greater the surface area for the microbes to get to work on. It works even better if you mix the whole thing up. As Mark said making sure the lid is airtight is also key. Bokashi works out cheaper if you buy it in large quantities, we sell 20 litre tubs which should last you 6 to 12 months depending on the number of people using it and you can then buy refill bags that are a bit cheaper.

    2. Hello Philippa,
      What may have caused the bucket to go bad? Did your bucket have a drainage?
      I suspect there was to much leachate in your bucket at the bottom. Once it starts going bad, there is no turning it for the better. Another issue might be the Bokashi bran was not innoculated properly. The bran provides the microbes to the bin. When the quality of the bran is bad, it will be hard to get proper Bokashi.
      My advise would be to try another batch of Bokashi bran, start two small buckets. Use the ‘old’ and the new Bokashi bran just as you did last time.
      Or did you mean that your Bokashi looked like the stuff you’ve actually stuffed in the container? Because that’s something not to worry about. Making Bokashi is fermenting your left overs. All the stuff in your bucket can be fermented and still look the same. Bokashi should not look like rotted down food. White fungi is good. Green/red fungi is bad and will cause faul smell. Most of my Bokashi smells a little sweet and sour. How did your Bokashi smell?

  17. Hi this was a great little video, I do have a question though.
    Could you add a tap to the bottom bucket so that you don’t need to remove the top one to remove the fluid?
    Pete

  18. I once had a wormery but when the weather got really cold everything died. Any tips on how to keep it warm? I do not have a sheltered space.

    On another note. I need some advice please on how to grow beetroot sprouts (for salads) successfully.. Have you had success with growing these?

    Thank you,
    Noli

    1. Hi, making sure it is fairly full before winter comes (ie don’t harvest the contents for a month or two before cold weather) helps ensure there is a large amount of biomass that the worms can retreat into when it is cold. You can also wrap an old carpet round the wormery to reduce wind chill. Also, a layer of cardboard inside on top will give a bit more insulation. Also, if its possible to move it to a more sheltered position out of the wind that’s a good idea but not always practical. I just make sure the wormery is fairly full and – so far my worms have survived every winter for the last six years – I’m in the north of the UK, where are you?
      No experience with beetroot sprouts, sorry! But growing them as microgreens like I do fava bean shoots (see post and video on this) I’ve found works pretty well.

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