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What is bokashi?
Bokashi technically isn’t a composting method because it anaerobically ferments food rather than decomposing it. Bokashi bran, a mix of bacteria and yeast, breaks down food with very little odor (smells a bit like pickles) and doesn't create harmful emissions. Meat, cooked foods and dairy can be processed in a bokashi bucket and kill off pathogens and weed seeds due to its high acidity. The fermenting process also creates a leachate of beneficial bacteria that can be poured down the drain to prevent blockages, used to prevent algae or diluted to use as fertilizer.
Unlike other composting methods, bokashi has a continuous cost due to the need for bokashi bran, but this method takes up very little space, has a faster turnover time and can process materials that other methods cannot.
Step 1: Make or acquire a bin.
Bokashi requires an airtight container because it is an anaerobic process. You can either purchase a commercial bokashi container or make one using a 5-gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid and adding a spigot at the bottom to control drainage.
Step 2: Make or buy bokashi bran.
Bran is a continuous cost in bokashi fermentation that adds up over time. For those who wish to cut down the cost, research recipes for DIY bokashi bran online. The main components are wheat or rice bran, water, EM (effective microorganisms) and molasses. Lactobacillus bacteria, a key component in bokashi bran, can be cultured at home and used as a substitute for EM. For those in more rural areas, you may also be able to make your own bran using manures.
Step 3: Chop your scraps (optional, but recommended).
This increases the surface area available to the bacteria for faster fermentation.
Step 4: Put food scraps and bran in the container.
Many commercial bran brands recommend a handful of bran per 2 to 3 inches of food scraps. If your container has a spigot (rather than drainage holes), you can layer some bran at the bottom before putting in scraps. The general rule is that there is no such thing as too much bran.
Step 5: Compact the mixture to remove as much air as possible and close the lid.
You can use a dinner plate or piece of cardboard to help compact the contents. A plate is also a good way to weigh down the contents while they ferment.
When the bin starts getting full or you want to use your bokashi, stop adding material.
Step 6: Drain the liquid every two to three days.
The leachate is full of beneficial bacteria that can be poured down the drain to prevent blockages, used to prevent algae or diluted to use as a fertilizer. For fertilizer, the recommended ratio is 1:100 bokashi leachate to water. Use dillution within 24 hours.
Step 7: Harvest.
Once the bin is full, wait 2 weeks and then harvest. Bokashi product cannot be added directly to plants because of its high acidity. You can bury bokashi product 8 to 12 inches deep in soil away from existing plants to prepare soil for planting after one to two weeks.
Tip: Use the bokashi to speed up other composting processes by putting fermented bokashi product into a static compost bin or vermicompost (in small amounts when feeding to worms).