I wrote a post a while back about troubleshooting and what to do if your bokashi composting bin goes bad. A common question we get asked is “How do you know if you have a successful bokashi bin and that your bokashi compost has worked?”
The fermented food scraps will look very similar to those that you put into the kitchen composter. Even after the two weeks of fermentation in the bokashi bucket, your food scraps will still resemble food waste. The pre-compost will not look like traditional dark brown soil-like compost. But don’t worry, even though your fermented food scraps look very similar to the items you put into the bin the physical and chemical properties of your food waste has been altered meaning that it will be quickly broken down into your soil or compost pile when buried.
So, if the food scraps look very similar to when you put them into the bin, how do you know if your bokashi fermentation has been successful?
Top 3 signs of a successful bokashi bin
1. Sweet and sour pickle-like smell:
Your bokashi pre-compost should have a sweet and sour pickle-like odor; a cross between pickled vegetables and home-brew beer. The smell should not be unpleasant or overpowering. This is the most common sign that your bokashi fermentation has been successful.
If your bokashi kitchen composter smells putrid and rotten, then something has gone wrong. Find out what may have happened and tips for preventing this happening again in our troubleshooting post.
2. Bokashi tea:
Probably one of the first signs you’ll see of a successful bokashi bin is bokashi compost tea from your kitchen composter. You will typically start to see some tea within the first week of putting in your food scraps. BUT the amount of compost tea and the time it takes to be produced, will vary depending on the amount and type of food scraps that you add to the bin.
If you don’t see any bokashi tea, you may still have a successful bin.
3. White mold:
White mold and fungus on the top of your food scraps is a sign that the bokashi microbes are thriving and multiplying in your bin. Blue/black or green mold are a sure sign of a failed batch of pre-compost.
White mold is not always visible, even after the two week fermentation period. However, as long as you are not seeing blue/green mold in your bin, then you can be comfortable that the anaerobic bokashi microbes are thriving.
If you don’t see any white mold and you want to be confident that the bokashi fermentation has been successful then leave your sealed bin for a further week or two by which time more white mold should be visible.