Indoor Composting with Bokashi

Mack and I are delinquent Bokashi bloggers. At the end of last year, I wrote that I would be writing about our Bokashi experience “soon”. Well, that undefined period has become eight weeks in length. But no longer!

In December, Mack answered the call put out by Mike Thomas for people interested in trying out an indoor composting method that did not involve worms. We met up with him one weekend, and he supplied us with our own Bokashi starter kit – three Ziploc bags of Bokashi, and an Eco Living Organic plastic tub outfitted with a drainage tap and a lid.

Indoor composter

Michael explained that Bokashi is a bran-based mixture, that when added to certain natural materials, and void of oxygen, would help ferment organic matter. He provided us with a list of permitted additions, which included everything from vegetable peels, tea bags, egg shells and bones. Not permitted? Anything bleached (e.g. white coffee filters), mouldy, or liquid.

Just starting!
Base layer of Bokashi

The composting process seemed simple: add permitted materials to the tub, sprinkle some Bokashi over it, and give it a stir. Michael also advised using something like a plate or a plastic bag to cover the top of the mixture which would help squeeze and keep out excess air. The compost smell would be minimal, and was to resemble a pickling odour and nothing more.

First addition
Our first composter additions!

Every few days, Michael said the mixture would yield 2-3 tablespoons of liquid, which we could dilute and use as a fertilizer for plants, or pour down the drain to act as a sort of natural Draino.

In terms of “disposing” of the rich compost material, as condo dwellers without a yard or a community garden plot, we still had a few options, including throwing the material out in the garbage (in the grand scheme, if everyone composted even a little, it would impact overall waste management systems, in lightening the garbage load). That seemed a little “wasteful”, so we figured we’d donate the material to my parents, who do have a garden.

Since we started using Bokashi, we’ve made a few observations:

1) It is easy to use! Adopting Rachael Ray’s “garbage bowl” technique, I would place all of the scraps in a bowl, and dump the contents into the tub at the end of the day. The only minor inconvenience was having to cut up things like grapefruit halves and banana peels – Mike recommended nothing larger than the size of a potato chip go into the tub.

Garbage Bowl
Garbage bowl!

2) Because we cook quite a bit, our tub was about two thirds full in about a month. As Michael had said, most of the peels would retain their shape and colour – it was odd to see that things like orange peels remaining intact week after week.

Still early on
Still early

3) We were checking for the liquid every few days during that time – but none was produced.

We left it alone for a while, unsure of how long to let the mixture break down. More importantly, we weren’t sure if we had messed it up – though the smell was tolerable (a sort-of pickling smell), because of the lack of liquid (still, after two months), we weren’t sure if we were on the right path. Mike reassured us that we might be though (and more Bokashi can fix most ills), and advised us to simply add more organic material to the mix.

Our compost after two months

More posts about Bokashi to come (for real this time)!

You can read about Sarah’s experience with Bokashi here (as a single family home dweller with a young child) – unlike us, she hasn’t been delinquent.

10 thoughts on “Indoor Composting with Bokashi

  1. I purchased a Bokashi after reading about it on your blog. I have been very impressed with the results so far. There are two of us in our household but we eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies and the Bokashi kept up to us. We have filled it in about 2 months (the volume decreases as it ferments) and I have been getting enough “tea” to fertilize my plants once a week. We don’t smell it at all! My only criticism is that for $80 the tub should come with a properly designed plate to insert on top of the waste material, dealing with a plastic bag etc is annoying. I also found that the tap for the tea doesn’t work as well as it could. Overall I am happy with it and it beats trudging through the snow to my composter in the winter!

  2. My husband and I have been looking for an apartment composting system for a while now as I really want to be one of those “look at all the beautiful plants in your apartment” people (in complete defiance of the will of my black thumb), but every offering we had come across was not ideal in terms of smell – our apartment has a lot of windows that don’t open, and so it gets warm/hot fast without the ability to ventilate with the breeze.

    The price seems to be a bit off-putting, truth be told, but I’m definitely going to take a swing by EGS to take a peek and see if it would work well in my space-limited kitchen/apartment.

  3. I haven’t been that good about it either. I found that taking pictures of my compost isn’t all that glam. And I just went to Earth’s General today to get another bucket because we’re going to become a multi bucket family. Then the full mixture can hang out and process while we fill up the new one, etc.

    No tea for us either! I was sort of counting on it because I am horrible to our house plants (that are miraculously still alive), but I am sure the tea will come in time.

    Keep sprinkling!

  4. Fantastic update, Sharon. I was wondering how it was going, and more specifically, what you guys would be doing with the compost as condo dwellers – giving it to your parents is a great idea! I’m sure I could find someone in Garneau willing to take some compost off our hands 🙂 Looking forward to more posts!

  5. Kristina – that’s a fair comment, about the fact that it would be helpful for a properly fitting plate. Hopefully they listen and incorporate it into future kits!

    Sarah – you’ve been doing really well documenting (and definitely a better job than us). Great that you’re becoming a multi bucket family – I’m sure Dexter loves to help out :).

    Marianne – I’m sure you could put a call out on your blog/Twitter and people would jump at the chance to get your compost :).

  6. The bokashi bins are a great invention, it’s pretty easy to use and you feel much less guilty for all the wastes you make! Nevertheless one bokashi bin gets filled quite quickly, so I think it’s better to have at least 2 bokashi bins so that you can use an empty one while the full one is composting.


  7. Got a few worms while participating in the Master Naturalist program (a volunteer program provided by the City of Edmonton). Interested in a full composting system like the Bokachi. Is there something less onerous than the $80+ kit?

  8. Ygaen – I would imagine something fitted with a drainage feature and an airtight lid would work just as well, but the kit really is convenient.

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