Bokashi

Bokashi

Eliminate bad smells from your kitchen scraps, and turn them into fertilizer, using Bokashi!

What is Bokashi?

Bokashi (also ‘EM Bokashi’) is a culture of micro-organisms (yeasts and bacteria) which ferment kitchen scraps, out-competing bacteria that would otherwise produce bad smells, and preserving the scraps until you’re ready to bury or compost them. Bokashi can handle animal products, and as a byproduct, Bokashi produces a liquid fertilizer called ‘Bokashi juice’ which can be used to inoculate your soil with helpful microbes.

Benefits:

  • Preserves scraps
  • Handles animal products
  • Eliminates bad smells
  • Improves soil

Jump to:

Sourcing Bokashi
Using Bokashi with kitchen scraps
Burying Bokashi scraps
Composting Bokashi scraps
Using Bokashi juice
Make your own liquid Bokashi
Make your own Bokashi bran
FAQ
How much Bokashi do I need to use?
How long can I preserve kitchen scraps for?
Does Bokashi affect composting temperatures?
Can I feed Bokashi scraps to worms in my worm farm?
Is it necessary to buy a specialized Bokashi bin?
Related Articles
How to Compost
Human Waste Composting
Tumbler Composting
Cardboard Compost Bins

Materials:

  • 4L buckets with lids
  • EM Bokashi bran/powder/liquid

Sourcing Bokashi

Bokashi Bran

Bokashi Bran

Bokashi can be purchased as either a liquid starter or inoculated bran. You can make your own liquid Bokashi, and from liquid Bokashi you can make your own bran (see below for a how-to).

I recommend purchasing a small batch of Bokashi bran first, then experiment with creating and breeding your own. Keep Bokashi stored in a sealed container, out of direct sunlight.

Using Bokashi with Kitchen Scraps

Whether you intend to bury your scraps or compost them, Bokashi scraps are prepared the same way:

Bokashi Scraps

Olive buckets make great collectors for kitchen scraps

  1. Collect all your kitchen scraps into buckets. Fruit and veg scraps, meat, fish, eggs, cheese – anything organic can be processed with Bokashi (bones won’t break down). 4Litre buckets work well.
  2. Sprinkle a small amount of Bokashi bran over the kitchen scraps. Seal the lid and give the bucket a shake. This helps to spread the Bokashi bran around the scraps. You can continue to add scraps to the bucket, but replace the lid each time. Only add Bokashi to a bucket if the contents begin to smell, or once the bucket is full.

    Bokashi Scraps

    One sprinkle of bokashi, then shake it up to mix it around.

  3. Seal the full bucket and set it aside. Start a fresh bucket while the first one ferments.
  4. The Bokashi operate anaerobically (in low oxygen), and will breed and spread throughout your kitchen scraps, outcompeting the kinds of bacteria which normally cause bad smells and rotting. Bokashi ferment the scraps, pickling and preserving them for weeks.
  5. A byproduct of this fermentation is a liquid called ‘Bokashi juice’. It must be drained out of the bucket as it builds up, otherwise it will go rancid and ‘spoil the brew’. Fortunately it’s a great soil inoculant, and can be diluted and used as a liquid fertilizer.
    Drain out the Bokashi juice

    Drain out the Bokashi juice

    Bokashi Juice

    Bokashi Juice

Burying Bokashi Scraps

Once you’ve accumulated enough Bokashi kitchen scraps, you can dig a hole about 20cm deep and bury them.

The fermentation process prepares the scraps for a quick break-down in the soil, and in two weeks the scraps should have become black humus – a wonderful fertilizer for nearby plants.

Composting Bokashi Scraps

Add Bokashi scraps to your compost as per normal. When batch composting, Bokashi makes it easy to preserve kitchen scraps until enough materials have been gathered to do a batch. See ‘Tumbler Composting’ for an explanation.

Using Bokashi Juice

Bokashi juice is a liquid teeming with bacteria and yeast, not just Bokashi. It is highly acidic, and so it must be diluted before it can be used as a fertilizer. A ratio of 1:100 (Bokashi juice to water) is recommended, and this same mix can also be sprayed over soil as an inoculant, to boost soil biology and aid the break-down of materials already in the soil.

 

Using Bokashi Juice

Feed your plants some Bokashi love

Bokashi Juice - pH test

Test the pH of your Bokashi Juice

Make Your Own Liquid Bokashi

You can purchase Bokashi as a liquid starter, or you can make your own. All you need is rice, water, cows milk, and a bucket with a lid:

  1. Rinse rice in a bowl with water, and collect the starchy water in your bucket.
  2. Store the water in a dark cupboard with the lid rested (not sealed) on top, for a week, or until it smells sour. This is due to yeasts in the air breeding in the water.
  3. Add 2 liters of milk to the bucket, and return it to the cupboard with the lid rested on top for a further 2 weeks. The yeasts will curdle the milk, separating the solids from the whey. Strain off the solids (compost them), and the liquid is Bokashi!

Make Your Own Bokashi Bran

You can purchase Bokashi bran, or you can make your own. All you need is a liquid Bokashi (see ‘Making your own liquid Bokashi’), a plastic bag, a plastic sheet and some nice weather for drying the bran:

  1. Empty your bran into a plastic bag (double bagging recommended). Pour in your liquid Bokashi gradually – just enough to moisten all of the bran, but not to pool.
  2. Compress all the air out of the bag and tie it closed. Leave this batch in the cupboard for two weeks.
  3. Lay a plastic sheet on the ground outside on a hot day with no wind. Empty and spread the bran over the sheet to dry. It’s preferable to dry Bokashi bran in the shade, as UV kills microbes, as does intense heat.
  4. Sweep up your Bokashi bran and store it in a sealed container out of direct sunlight.

    Store your Bokashi bran in a dry container

    Store your Bokashi brain in a dry container

Bokashi bran can last for years!


Frequently Asked Questions

How much Bokashi do I need to use?

The packet I bought recommends about a handful of Bokashi bran for a 4Litre bucket load of kitchen scraps – a rate at which a 5Litre bag of bran would only last me a few months. I have since found that a teaspoon of bran does the job!

I’ve even found scraps fermented in buckets I didn’t add Bokashi to – because Bokashi have persisted in the bucket since its last use – enough to breed up and ferment the next batch! So I recommend experimenting with just how little you can get away with. Just remember, you only need enough to out-compete bad bacteria, and whatever you add will breed in the bucket.

How long can I preserve kitchen scraps for?

So long as you ensure the Bokashi juice byproduct is drained from your buckets, your kitchen scraps should remain preserved for weeks. I have left a bucket with scraps including expired chicken in the blazing summer heat for weeks, with no bad smells and no apparent change. I’ve also neglected to drain Bokashi juice from buckets that have been sitting for weeks – it looked like snot and smelt like vomit!

Does Bokashi affect composting temperatures?

Since Bokashi is most often presented as an alternative to composting, its affects on composting operations aren’t well documented. However, I have used Bokashi kitchen scraps in my compost tumblers and in my humanure composting operation, and in both have attained thermophilic temperatures as per normal. This suggests to me there is no interference.

Can I feed Bokashi scraps to worms in my worm farm?

Bokashi scraps are acidic, as is Bokashi juice. Acids are byproducts of fermentation, and worms won’t enjoy it on their sensitive skin. Nevertheless, you can add Bokashi scraps to a worm farm – just bury the scraps and give the worms some time to get through them.

Is it necessary to buy a specialized Bokashi bin?

No. Some clever people have designed a bin especially suited to Bokashi and kitchen scraps. The scraps rest on a grill which allows the Bokashi juice to drain away from the scraps. A tap allows the user to tap-off the juice as required.

I have seen an improvised version of this bin, which involves two buckets which stack inside each other – the inner bucket has holes poked in its base for drainage into the bottom bucket. The top bucket is removed and the juice is poured out. I collect all kitchen scraps in individual 4Litre buckets with lids. When Bokashi juice builds up, I hold the lid just off the rim and tip the buckets, allowing the juice to drain out. I got all my buckets for free (Olive buckets from a deli), and I’ve never had a problem!


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17 comments on “Bokashi

  1. Great site..thank you, hope it still running as all posts are nearly 2 yrs old (aaaggghhh)

    one question is bokashi juice enough of a fertiliser by itself or should I supplement ..with??

    • Oh my goodness Justine! It has been such a long time since you posted your question. I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to respond. If you haven’t found out already, Bokashi juice will only contain the nutrients that have been there already, i.e. food scraps. So a mixture of food scraps will mean a richer bokashi juice. Also, I’ve been advised that it’s best to use a variety of organic methods, such as compost tea, worm juice, biogas effluent, as each will bring it’s own special flavour to the soil, and remove the need for us to become experts in soil nutrient management! I hope I’m not too late to be of some help.

  2. Forgot to say ..bokashi is tops my azaleas went ahead in leaps and bounds but seem to be flagging a bit at moment although I could have sworn I had read to use only 1-2 tsp of juice per 9 litres of water …wld u advise pls
    Thanks muchly
    J

    • Hi Justine,

      Sorry I took so long to respond; I hope your Azaleas are okay!
      Bokashi juice is quite acidic. I have a feeling this is the main reason it’s proponents encourage diluting it. Azaleas happen to enjoy acidic soil, so I imagine you wouldn’t have to dilute it as much as for ph-neutral-loving plants.
      I’m not sure if bokashi juice alone can serve as a complete organic fertiliser. I’ve been assured by an arborist that it’s best to cycle through as many organic fertilisers as possible (different manures, compost, worm castings, bokashi, etc). This should mean that whatever is lacking in one source is compensated by the next, and overall there shouldn’t be an imbalance.

      If you grow good soil, healthy plants will follow.

      Much Love

  3. Sometimes I have loads of bokashi liquid and other times after a couple of weeks I have hardly any . Can you tell me why?

    • Hi Aileen, thanks for your question. I’ve also noticed some buckets with heaps of juice, and others with very little, even after the same time period. The ones which seem to produce the most are the ones with watermelon, lettuce and cabbage, and other leafy material, which contain heaps of water, whereas corn cobs, banana skins and citrus peel are very fibrous and won’t leach much juice. This doesn’t mean they’re not pickling – the bokashi are still working, but where there’s less water there’ll be less juice to show for it.

      Let me know what else you discover!

      Shaun

      • Hi Shaun thanks for response regarding Bokashi liquid it was very helpful and makes a lot of sense. My Azaleas are stunning since I have been feeding them with the liquid. My current project is my Camellia which has been growing, or not, for years and has not grown any taller. I started feeding it bokashi liquid two weeks ago and I am sure it has grown. I will keep you posted.

  4. Hi! How much of rice and water do you use? Also is it possible to use existing Bokashi bran to make Bokashi liquid? Like adding some of the Bokashi bran to a liquid substrate such as rice water with some molasses added and allowing it to incubate for a while and then straining off the liquid?

    • Hi Nirvana, yes you can breed bokashi using the method you’ve described, so long as the container is sealed (no air). The juice may be teeming with microbes which are good for the soil, but won’t be as nutrient rich as bokashi juice from kitchen scraps, so it wont make for a rich fertilizer. I hope that helps.

  5. Hi Shaun,

    I was wondering if you could give some advice.

    I actually bought a bokashi bucket two months ago and am yet to use it!

    I tried to make my own accelerant but it bred maggots! That was just from the rice water. I’m going to try again and hope nothing lays eggs in the water, but just wondering about the milk. Won’t that smell really really aweful?

    Another idea I had was the buy some liquid accelerate and every time I spray add a few drops of water. My idea is that whatever microbes are in the accelerant will multiply and turn the newly added water into accelerant. Do you think that will work?

    Btw. This post was very easy to understand how it all works. Thanks!

    Kim

    • Hi Kim, bokashi will breed if the conditions are right (wet, low oxygen, shade) if they have a food source. Unless you’re planning to store or give away concentrated bokashi, the best way to breed them up is in your bokashi bin. So you’ll have to get some bokashi introduced in there first, but then as you add scraps they will breed up and ferment the scraps. Once the bin needs emptying, just rinse it out with cold water, and when you start adding scraps, they’ll breed up again. There should be enough bokashi on the inside surfaces of the bin to do this. I use 4litre buckets for my scraps and only added bokashi in the beginning – that was a few years ago! They still breed up every time. Good luck Kim, and let me know how it goes.

  6. Why might leachate not be produced in my bokashi bucket?

    I started a bokashi bucket a couple of weeks ago. It’s a commercial bucket with a tap at the bottom for the leachate, not a home made rig.

    I store it in my shower room under the sink. There are no odours coming from it unless I open it up.

    I bought bokashi bran and add 50 – 80 ml of it per 5l of food scraps.

    After two weeks it’s about 80% full (capacity 35 litres), and when I open it, it smells like pickled onions, not of rotting food.

    But I still haven’t had a single drop of leachate.

    Why might that be?

    • Hi Adam, thanks for asking, and I hope you’ve got some leachate by now. I get varied results too, but it doesn’t seem to have an impact on the pickling process, which is what I use bokashi for.

      Let me know if you’re still having issues.

      Good things

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