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DIY Bokashi Bucket

first of all, here's what the Bokashi people have to say about the Bokashi Bucket. i've emboldened the bit that i thought was most important (oooh thankyou Natalia... you're so thoughtful Natalia... how do you manage to be so amazing?)

"A revolutionary fermentation process that turns your kitchen waste into a rich soil conditioner.

The Bokashi Bucket is a practical and convenient alternative for transforming kitchen waste into a nutrient rich soil conditioner. This unique composting system uses the revolutionary EM (Effective Micro-Organism) Bokashi to create the ideal conditions for airtight (anaerobic) composting.

Great for houses, the eco-friendly Bokashi Bucket and EM Bokashi eliminate the odours and unpleasantness associated with putrefaction and decay.

You can compost almost every kitchen food waste in your Bokashi Bucket including fruit and vegetables, prepared foods, cooked and uncooked meats and fish, cheese, eggs, bread, coffee grinds, tea bags, wilted flowers and tissues. Bokashi starter kits contain all you need to get started and can be purchased from our order page."

so basically, as you can see its just lovely. it's good for people especially who like me, live in an apartment and don't make that much rubbish to begin with or don't have space for a compost bin or worm farm (those things end up being pretty huge somehow). it also doesn't produce the horrid smell compost and worm farms make since it ferments instead of rots the food. you can however, move the stuff that has fermented to your compost bin or bury in your garden (or pot if you dont HAVE a garden) to further break down. the Bokashi people suggest having 2 bins so you move the stuff from the first bin to the second to ferment and break down more before burying.

here is their Australian website, there would be other country listings, i just couldn't be bothered to find it (hehe, so much for being helpful)

this explains much better than i will (or could i guess) how it works and it has a video of how to use it, how it should look after fermenting etc.

now, the Australian website expects me to shell out $100 for a 20 litre bucket and some EM (sawdust with micro-organisms in it) and i have to  say, they must be out of their minds. my dads local council in New Zealand sells them for $20 (suddenly angered much?). so in my DIY vengeance i decided to stick my nose up at them and make my own.


  • 2 Buckets, one with a lid (i used 20 litre buckets because that's what the hardware store had, but a household of 2 people uses about a 10 litre bucket so guesstimate from that)
  • drill with a 10mm drill bit (i tried a 2mm one as well as making a hole with mallet and nail and the bucket just laughed at me)
  • yeah that's it.
To make EM
  • 3 kg of oat bran/oats/ or sawdust (Bokashi sell it as sawdust and a book i read suggested oat bran but it was too expensive so i decided to experiment with rolled oats and i don't see what the difference is, but correct me if i'm wrong)
  • 15 mL/ 2 Table spoons Molasses
  • 3 L water
  • micro organisms (you can buy this stuff at the hardware store but i decided not to worry and left it out. if i find its not fermenting propelry or really smells i might go buy some but i have little funds and couldn't be bothered walking to the hardware store)

its basically a 2 bucket system, you are just going to stack the 2 buckets ontop of each other, so its good to get buckets where at least the one that sits on top has some sort of lip/ridge that stops it from sinking all the way down the bottom bucket (i used industrial buckets and if you look closely, the bottom lip/ridge stops the bucket sinking into the bottom one).

the bucket  that sits on top needs a airtight lid and some holes drilled into the bottom of it for liquid to drip into the second bucket. its also a good idea to draw where the holes are going to go so you have a specific spot to aim the drill at. HOLD THE DRILL WITH BOTH HANDS AND USE SOMETHING HEAVY TO HOLD THE BUCKET DOWN. when you drill through, the bucket is going to bounce all over the place! this is why you should hold the bucket down with a brick or if like me you like to live on the wild side, use your foot (but keep it as far from that nasty drill as you can). to get the drill out, put the drill into reverse spin.

there isn't really a rule about how many holes to put in i think, i went a bit crazy, i don't want any liquid hiding in the top bucket in case it starts to rot stuff. i've put in the photo of the drill and drill bits to show you the 2mm bit i used first and... failed with. you can see how much thicker and MIGHTIER the 10 mm bit is.



sit it into the second bucket, making sure there is some space left in the bottom bucket for liquid to build up and VOILA! everything you would normally dispose of that is biodegradable goes in the top bucket (food scraps including meat.citrus/onioins/garlic - which you cant normally put in other composts) egg shells, nail clippings, tissues, newpapers, kitty litter/other pet poops, grass/plant clippings). if it starts to smell you just chuck in some of the EM on top.

when you first set it up or have just emptied the bucket and are starting again, give the bucket a rinse with a small amount of dish washing detergeant (rinse well!) and when you put food in again, put some EM in the bottom, middle and top layers of food to help it start fermenting.

you should expect white mould, this is part of the fermenting process. if there is black mould it means there is too much moisture, it needs more EM. any sign that it is too wet, just add more EM, the same if it seems to be smelling too much.


like i said previously, when you put your first lot of food in the bucket (the very fist time as well as every time you empty it out and start again), start off with some EM in the bottom, middle and top layer and then later on, as it all begins to ferment and shrink, you only need to add more when it gets a bit smelly.

as it ferments, liquid will be drained into the bottom bucket, that needs to emptied out at least once a week. once your bucket is full, leave it for 10-14 days and then put it in your comport bin/worm/farm/in the ground/ big planter pot/ tub or pot plant if you dont have a garden or a second bokashi bucket to further ferment and break down, and put a ratio of about one part EM to 2 parts bin contents (although its not imperative that you do) and cover with soil for 6-8 weeks. then its ready to be donated to your plants!

  • Bokashi Juice can be diluted with water and makes a terrific fertiliser for garden or pot plants.
  • It can be poured down drains and it is safe to use in septic tanks. 

When used in drains it will help to clean up our water ways by competing with harmful bacteria (especially if you're putting the organism/bacteria stuff from the hardware store in your EM).


i just made my EM (which is more E than M since i haven't bought any micro organisms) and discovered two things.

1. its essentially sticky porridge and using all 3 kg of the stuff for one use is over kill. i only used 1kg oats, 1 L water and 1 tablespoon of molasses (well maybe 2, i wasn't sure if it was enough to distribute properly) and there was plenty for  the bottom and top layer (i only had about 2 L worth of stuff to put in there anyway). i decided just in case, to put some untounched, dry oats on top, just a light sprinkling to cover the whole thing, in case it was all a bit too wet.

2. my kittens are rather fond of porridge and molasses on a spoon. and buckets.

that EM mix didn't work so well, using oats was not the best idea. it didn't rot since nothing in the bokashi bucket rots but ferments, but it didn't stop the stuff from stinking to high heaven. it could also probably have something to do with me not taking it out after the 10 day fermentation process and instead take it out a month after. BAD IDEA.

i'd origianlly altered the EM mi recipe i found so i'm going to go back and see what the recipe actually said. i'm aso going to go to the hardware store and see how much a tub of bioculture mistuff costs, which is essentially the EM mi you'd buy from a bokashi website/shop, which is what i was trying to replicate for a cheaper price.

i was also using the oats to keep the smell down, but on reflection you could probably go to your local carpenter or hardware store that cuts wood in store and ask for wood shavings/saw dust. i called a few carpenters but they all work with chip board which was absolutely useless to me. while i'm at the hardware store looking for bioculture mix i'll ask about saw dust. i saw some for sale at a pet store but why buy a tiny amount for far too high a price when you can get it for free AND recycle something which would only be thrown out?

once you bury the contents of the bokashi bin in the ground a little saw dust on top can help with the smell. i tried sand and it killed the worms i think...

i live in an apartment so i have no garden to bury it in, i got some foam crates from the fruit shop and "borrowed" some soil from my apartment grounds and the park next to my building. i tell you, the stuff stinks. probably wasn't helped by having left it in the bucket for close to a month and not drainign out the liquid at least once a month. although i've never had a compost bin/heap/attempt befpre so i'm fairly sure it smells just as much as they would.

i'll update this entry once i have more answers.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 25th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
i like it
i will try to do it , and tell you as soon i can buy the buckets...
I just hope this thing does not smells! it will be in the balcony in front of my window....
love you nat....
Have a gallery fundraiser on friday.. wanna come ?
is in marrickville.. have a look in my profile....
Apr. 25th, 2009 03:38 am (UTC)
Re: i like it
that's what the EM does, aside from help it ferment more. and because its fermenting instead of rotting, there's hardly any smell. if you're really worried about the smell, just put a layer of sawdust on top, that will stop the smell :)
Apr. 25th, 2009 09:47 am (UTC)
Save yourself the trouble of making your own buckets and creating your own bokashi culture mix. Visit www.bokashicycle.com and learn everything about bokashi and buy an entire system and perfectly made bokashi mix for a low price.
You will be impressed.
Apr. 26th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
Re: Bokashicycle.com
i took a look at your site and it comes back to what i was saying, companies (including the website you suggested) are asking $100 for the bucket PLUS SHIPPING when i only paid $20 to make my own which only took ten minutes at most.

they are also charging $4 for 400 grams of EM when to make your own, around 4 KILOS costs just under $10 and that includes half a litre of molasses and you only need 15mL per 3Kg of EM.

there is no trouble involved in making it, it takes ten minutes, costs a FIFTH of the price that premade buckets are sold for, so i have to say there is really nothing impressive about it.

although i do understand that not everyone wants to make their own things, this is, however, a journal dedicated to projects which are "Do It Yourself".
Jun. 11th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC)
Making EM
Can you provide more details about the DIY EM. Do you leave the mixture to ferment for a while? How quickly should you use your 'porridge'. Can I find EM-1 that is sold on the Bokashi website in places like Bunnings or Mitre 10 or does it have another name. Based on stuff I have read you can do 20 parts water to 1 part EM e.g. 1L water, 1kg oats, 5ml molasses, 50ml EM-1. Where can I get cheap oats and molasses from?

Another question about Bokashi juice. The website says you can't store it. Why not? Does it smell? explode? off gas?
Jun. 11th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Making EM
i have to revise my EM recipe. the oats weren't a complete failure, they are mainly there to suppress the smell (to stop attracting flies. i keep my bucket in the kitchen since i have limited space) and to help distribute the molasses.

i'm not sure if anything went wrong, since this is the first time i've made/used a bokashi bucket and am learning as i go along. the oats didn't rot, as they would in a regular compost/worm farm because bokashi ferments. it's also hard to tell because i left it so long before taking it out of the bucket to bury.

i'm going to go look at the EM recipe i found again and see what it says. it didn't actually say to use oats, it said to use bran and i chose oats because they're similar and the oats were cheaper but i do wonder if it would have made a difference.

i only found one brand of molasses and it was maybe $5 for a huge jar, and i bought no name oats whic hwere around $1 kg. i'm going to see what other alternatives there are.

with the EM1 (micro organisms) that bokashi sell, you can also buy them at the hardware store in teh plant/gardening section. i have no idea what it's called or how much it costs but i'm going to go today and see if i can find it.

with the liquid that drains out, you need to empty that out at least once a week. i didn't and it rotted. when i emptied that bucket out, it didn't just smell gross, it smelt like vomit. that's my own fault for leaving it for at least a month without emptying out the liquid though.

you can't store it for the same reason, it goes off.

when you're using the liquid, you can pour it down the sink to help break down food particles stuck in your pipes or you can pour it on your garden as a liquid fertiliser. but remember to mix 1 part juice to 3 parts water as it's supposed to be fairly strong.

when i mixed the oats version of EM i just mixed it and used it straight away. but i didnt add any micro organism stuff from the hardware store. not sure if it would be a different process. i'll let you know when i get back from the hardware store!!
Jun. 12th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Make you own Bokashi mix with EM-1
I have found a couple references for making Bokashi mix.



The suggested ratio ranges from 6-20ml of EM-1 to 1kg bran (+ water and molasses).

1L of EM-1 is around AUD$25 and can make 50-160 kg of mix (easily enough to last a few years!)

The only catch is according to the manufacturer is that EM-1 last 6 months once opened and the mix will last 12 months.

I am going to check out a local granary to find out how much bran will cost.

I went to Bunnings today but couldn't find any EM-1 or equivalent. A quick internet search for retailers was also unhelpful.

Jun. 12th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)
Re: Make you own Bokashi mix with EM-1
i just found a bokashi blog that addresses some questions people have asked them about making their own EM.


it's pretty long, i tried to put in some lj cuts but it didn't seem to want to recognise them. i'm useless when it comes to technology.

"Here’s a simple method of collecting this type of microorganism. Lactic acid bacteria can be collected from the air.

Pour rice wash (solution generated when you wash the rice with water) in a container like a plastic pot with lid. Allow air gap at least 50-75% of the container. The key here is the air space. Cover the (not vacuum tight, allowing air still to move into the container) container with lid loosely. Put the container in a quiet area with no direct sunlight. Allow the rice was to ferment for at least 5-7 days. Lactic acid bacteria will gather in 5-7 days when temperature is 20-25 degrees C. Rice bran will be separated and float in the liquid, like a thin film, smelling sour. Strain and simply get the liquid. Put this liquid in a bigger container and pour in ten parts milk. The original liquid has been infected with different type of microbes including lacto bacilli. And in order to get the pure lacto bacilli, saturation of milk will eliminate the other microorganisms and the pure lacto bacilli will be left. You may use skim or powdered milk, although fresh milk is best. In 5-7 days, carbohydrate, protein and fat will float leaving yellow liquid (serum), which contain the lactic acid bacteria. You can dispose the coagulated carbohydrate, protein and fat, add them to your compost pile or feed them to your animals. The pure lactic acid bacteria serum can be stored in the refrigerator or simply add equal amount of crude sugar (dilute with 1/3 water) or molasses. Do not use refined sugar as they are chemically bleached and may affect the lactic acid bacteria. The sugar or molasses will keep the lactic acid bacteria alive at room temperature. One to one ratio is suggested although sugar, regardless of quantity is meant simply, serving as food for the bacteria to keep them alive. Now, these lactic acid bacteria serum with sugar or molasses will be your pure culture. To use, you can dilute this pure culture with 20 parts water. Make sure water is not chemically treated with, like chlorine. Remember, we are dealing with live microorganisms and chlorine can kill them. This diluted form 1:20 ratio will be your basic lactic acid bacteria concoction. [this is the same recommended dilution ratio with Biosa/EM-1 etc. - Al] Two to four tablespoons added to water of one gallon can be used as your basic spray.

The good thing about a pre-packaged product is that you can make smaller batches successfully. 250ml of Biosa/EM with 250ml of molasses and 12L of water will make 40Kg/100lbs of bokashi. Another advantage is that it has a guaranteed shelf life - at most 1 year - which you can’t be certain of with the lactic acid you make on your own.
Re: Make you own Bokashi mix with EM-1 - lulu_lenore - Jun. 12th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Make you own Bokashi mix with EM-1 - lulu_lenore - Jun. 12th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Make you own Bokashi mix with EM-1 - (Anonymous) - Jun. 12th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Make you new mix with old mix - (Anonymous) - Jun. 14th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Make you new mix with old mix - lulu_lenore - Jun. 16th, 2009 01:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Make you new mix with old mix - (Anonymous) - Jun. 18th, 2009 09:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 16th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
homebrew EM
The stuff from the hardware store is probably optimized for aerobic composts--nothing wrong with that, but retail EM is not the same thing. EM's make-up changes depending on location of origin, but it will always contain yeasts, lactobacilli, _and rhodobacters_. Which, among other things, deodorize.

So if you'd like to make your own culture for bucketing, you might wish to add a rhodobacter source. (Note that it's quite possible to ferment materials without them, especially if your bucket is vegan and you're diligent about dicing.)

I haven't yet tried it myself--lots of stuff going on, and I have a bottle of EM-1 that I'd kind of like to empty before its one-year anniversary--but you might try culturing your indigenous micro-organisms. Your browser may not like this, but there's a decent overview of different ways to "capture" IMO at https://www.homegrownbud.com/forums/showthread.php?p=65997

Strange but true: If you live near native bromeliads, the water they hold is a good rhodobacter source.

Jun. 16th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
Re: homebrew EM
yep, the bokashi blog i found (bokashiman) also mentioned a website that talked about marijuana growing. i think it was something simmilar to what you're talking about.
Re: homebrew EM - (Anonymous) - Jun. 18th, 2009 09:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: homebrew EM - (Anonymous) - Jun. 18th, 2009 09:47 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: homebrew EM - lulu_lenore - Jul. 6th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: homebrew EM - (Anonymous) - Jul. 8th, 2009 09:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: homebrew EM - lulu_lenore - Jul. 23rd, 2009 05:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 31st, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Hi! I just wanted to say thanks for writing this DIY guide, I found it very inspiring and went out to buy things to make my own Bokashi bin. Although I was too lazy to try making my own EM mixture, and I found that Bunnings sell the 5L bag fairly cheap at $16.98 which is about $3.39/L.

I agree that paying around $100 or more for a plastic bucket with a lid and tap is just ridiculous and a complete rip off. I went to Big W and bought a 15L plastic bin with lid in a square shape similar to the Bokashi bin for $10.48, then went to Bunnings and bought the Bokashi brand compost additive, a plastic tap similar to the ones on picnic/camping water containers for $5.98 (found in the plumbing/bathroom isle), and a tube of Bostik all-purpose silicone (for use on plastic materials) for $3.89. I measured the hole for the tap by drawing a circle around the tap where I intended to attach it on the bin (I placed it a few centimetres from the bottom in the middle), then used a drill to make a series of holes around the inside of the circle which eventually cut out the circular hole. Although the hole was a bit smaller than the tap so I used a sharp knife to cut/scrape off a bit more around the edge until the tap would fit tightly. I super-glued the tap to the bin (only on the outside of the bin) then used the silicone around the edge of the tap on the outside of the bin, and whatever edges I could reach on the inside so the hole should be fairly leak-proof.

I'm not sure how well my bin will work because I didn't buy a container with an air-tight lid (it just sits on top), but the bin I got was cheaper than the next best thing which was a 12L square container for around $15 that I saw in the tupperware section at Big W. It did have an air-tight lid and a handle, but it was also clear plastic which may not help the fermentation process because it wouldn't block out light. If that's how the process works, I'm not too sure about it myself so I'm just guessing it's better to have a coloured container. I suppose a clear container could be spray-painted black, but I also liked the 15L bin because it will hold more waste.

I've used a potato masher to press down the organic waste as much as possible to try to reduce air pockets, so I'll keep checking to see if it's working properly and forming a liquid at the bottom over the next few weeks. Hopefully I've placed the tap correctly to get the liquid out! I'm also using heavy objects (bricks would do) to keep the lid down to make it as air-tight as possible.

I might make another bin to move the waste from the current into, for extra breaking-down before burying as I've seen suggested on the Bokashi website and elsewhere.

I had a lot of fun with this project, and I'll get a warm fuzzy feeling by doing something good for the environment. Good luck to everyone with their DIY projects! :D
Oct. 25th, 2009 11:23 am (UTC)
Re: Inspiring!
I'm glad you like it :)

This was a complete learning experience for me because I'd never worked with a bokashi bucket before, let alone any sort of composting. So it's been great to see everyone's different methods because I get to learn new techniques :)

I also originally thought about drilling a hole into a bucket and putting a tap in it but when I found the tutorial (I don't remember where now, a composting book at Borders I think) that said you just need to drill holes into the inside bucket I figured it was easier and cheaper.

With the bucket being see-through I think painting it would fix the problem, I'm fairly sure it would need to be dark in there. I wonder if just keeping it in the dark (say in a cupboard) would be good enough?
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
I hope this thread didn't die. I'm making some of the lacto bacteria right now actually.
Jan. 28th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
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Jan. 29th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)

Jan. 29th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Lactose Bacterium
'Yakult' is packed with the lactose organism in the bokashi mix!
Feb. 12th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
zumba dvd anybody?
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