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Troubleshooting: What to do if your bokashi bin goes bad

4-step Guide to Bokashi CompostingBy following our 4-step how-to guide included for free with our bokashi starter kits, most people will enjoy successful results every time with their bokashi composting.  But if problems arise, don’t despair!  This page will answer and address the most common problems that might occur.

Bokashi composting is all about creating an optimal environment for the healthy bokashi microbes to thrive, and in doing so to convert your food scraps into nutrient rich pre-compost.  Remember that every climate is different, and not everybody creates the same type of food scraps, so there are no hard and fast rules for any composting process.  But after a couple of tries, most people will easily find the rhythm that works best within their kitchen.

How do I know if my bokashi compost bin has failed?

If you open your bokashi compost bin and you smell a foul, putrid odor or you see lots of blue/green mold, then something has gone wrong. A successful bokashi bin will smell pickly and/or yeasty and may have white mold visible (no visible white mold does not mean that it has failed).

Most common reasons for bokashi compost bins to fail

CHOPPING:

Make sure you chop up your food scraps before putting them in the kitchen composter.  Large items will compost, but will take longer to ferment than smaller items.  2 inch pieces are acceptable, but 1/2 to 1 inch in pieces are even better.  Remember that as vegetable and fruit skins are a natural protector, they will limit the bokashi microbes from entering as well.  Items like lemons should be chopped into quarters before putting them in the kitchen composter.

AIR:

Excess air is bad for the bokashi process.  The kitchen composter should be opened and closed as little as possible, and for as short a time as convenient, while you are loading it and until it is full.  Do not leave the lid open unnecessarily.  It’s best to collect your food scraps in a bin or bowl on your kitchen counter, and just once a day, or better yet every other day, load them all at once into the kitchen composter.  And try not to open the kitchen composter at all during its sealed two week fermentation time.

COVERING PLATE:

To keep excess air away from the food scraps within the kitchen composter, its ideal to place something to act as an air barrier on top of the food scraps.  Use a plastic bag (recommended), piece of cardboard, or even a kitchen plate placed on top of the food scraps, as you are working to fill the kitchen composter. And leave the item there once the bin is full during  its two week fermentation process.  Be sure to PRESS DOWN hard on the covering barrier as you add food layers, as this will help squeeze air out of the food scraps in the kitchen composter (the covering plate will also serve to keep your hands clean while doing this).

AMOUNT OF BOKASHI BRAN:

A pile of Bokashi Living's premium bokashi bran

You can never add too much bokashi bran to the kitchen composter.  In fact,  more is better, especially when dealing with food scraps that rot easily (like meat).  At a minimum, at least be sure that you have a dusting of bokashi bran mixed evenly throughout the food scraps that are in the bin.  As you add the food scraps, sprinkle the bokashi, and mix slightly to ensure even coverage.

TEMPERATURE:

The kitchen composter should be kept away from extreme temperatures.  Room temperature is ideal for the microbes to thrive.  Keep it inside during cold months, and out of direct sunlight in the warm months.  Colder temperatures will not stop the microbes entirely, but it will slow them down.

TIME:

Inside the kitchen composter:  most food scraps should successfully complete the precompost process in two weeks.  But some might take longer, especially if they are not chopped well enough.  Try leaving the food scraps for an extra week in the kitchen composter.  Longer fermentation time in the kitchen composter is always beneficial.

In the ground:  Once your precompost has been transferred to your garden, two weeks is usually all it takes for the majority of the items to be assimilated into the soil web.  However, if the temperature is cooler, or the food scraps are not fully precomposted, it might need longer.  An extra week in the soil should finish it off.

Further help and troubleshooting

Rodents are finding my buried pre-compost!

Rodents are curious and hungry.  They will often dig around anything that looks or smells new in your garden.  Bokashi precompost is acidic, and should not taste good to them.  If rodents have dug up your first batch of precompost, even after following the steps above, very often they will realize their mistake and not return.  However, if they dig it up more often, then you can easily solve the problem by ensuring the following:

  • let the precompost ferment in the kitchen composter for an additional week before transplanting to the garden or compost heap.  This will ensure complete fermentation.
  • bury the precompost deeper.  At a minimum, for rodent protection the precompost should be buried 6 inches below the surface. At that depth, the smell should not be inviting to them.  Bury deeper if you have particularly aggressive rodents.
  • try placing a piece of netting on top of the soil where the precompost is buried.  You can secure the corners of the netting with stones.
  • and remember that once an animal realizes that bokashi precompost is not easily available to them as a food source, they will move on.

My precompost smells rotten, and there is blue/black or green mold in it:

This is a sure sign of a failed batch, and it should be discarded (note that white mold is good and is a sign of a successful batch and very healthy microbes).  Be sure to follow the steps above, and in particular see that your lid is tightly sealing itself, the kitchen composter is not cracked, and that the drain spigot is kept closed.  As well, it’s likely that not enough bokashi bran was added to the food scraps, or mixed evenly enough throughout the food scraps.

My drain spigot leaks:

The drain spigot works with simple rubber washers.  For closing:  A simple and light finger tighten is all that is needed to seal the bin.  Over tightening can cause the inside washer to ‘roll off’ the sealing thread.  By disassembling the spigot, you can fairly easily reposition the washer if it has rolled off.  For opening:  half a turn is all that is needed to open the drain spigot.  Over turning it can cause it to become unthreaded, and possibly remain in the ‘open’ position.  If your spigot is draining by itself, then this is likely the scenario.  Simply push in on the spigot handle while tightening, and the thread should re-engage itself properly.

Remember, the bokashi composting system relies on a natural, living process and sometimes problems occur for not particular reason. If your bin goes bad, don’t despair simply pencil it down to bad luck and try again.

Order now! Find all your bokashi composting supplies in our online shop.

Other posts you might like to read:

https://bokashiliving.com/how-to-bokashi-compost/

Bokashi composting: how to get started

90 responses to “Troubleshooting: What to do if your bokashi bin goes bad”

  1. Violette Kyse says:

    My finished bokashi compost when added to my garden smells horribly for a few days, and during this time attracts flies. The smell and flies subside after a few days but then for months afterwards I notice the soil dancing with gnats. Is this normal? Can I do anything to avoid the gnats and the horrible smell?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. The bokashi pre-compost can smell fairly strong. It should smell pickly, not rotten or putrid. Are you draining the tea regularly? Too much liquid can make your bin smell and may attract flies and gnats. Make sure to mix the fermented food waste well with the surrounding soil to break up any large pieces and cover with a generous 6″ of soil.

  2. Firstly, thanks for providing such a great resource on your site!

    I am fairly new to bokashi compositing and am on my fourth round of fermentation and trench digging. I’ve noticed a few patterns (and potential issues) and have a few quick questions:

    – When I add orange or lemon peel to the bokashi bin it starts to collect the unwanted blue/green mould. Does that mean we should avoid adding citrus peel to the bok bin?

    – When I add houseplant leaves to the bin they don’t break down very much (they’re still whole when I trench bury the bin). Should I avoid adding these?

    – I’ve been diluting the bok tea and watering the houseplants with it (I read this was an option). Now I’ve just realised it’s acidic – is this problematic for houseplants or ok?

    – Finally, should we wash and dry the bin at the end of each cycle or do you start over without cleaning?

    Thank you so much for any help! Much appreciated.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi,

      Great to hear you have got started with bokashi composting and thanks for the questions. Answers below:

      – Citrus peel is absolutely fine to add to your bokashi bucket. I am not sure why this is generating the blue/green mold. Make sure to cut the food waste into 1-2″ pieces and maybe be a bit more generous with the bokashi bran when adding citrus. But there is not need to keep these out of your bokashi bucket, any food waste can go in.
      – The bokashi microbes thrive on the carbohydrates in your food waste. As there are no sugars and carbs in your houseplant leaves, they will come out of the bokashi composter fairly unaffected by the bokashi process. They are fine to add, and they will break down when during the second stage. However, they may take up valuable space in your bokashi composter that would be better used for food waste. You can continue to add to your bokashi bucket or you could simply add the houseplant leaves to your trench when you bury your bokashi pre-compost.
      – Yes, the bokashi tea is acidic which is why you need to diluter to at least 1:100 before using. It it fine to use on houseplants but monitor if they show negative signs from its use. If so, simply reduce the frequency with which you use it. Houseplants are often more sensitive than outdoor gardens as they grow in a much more limited volume of soil.
      – No need to wash your bins after use if you are going to be using it straight away. From time to time you can give them a quick spray with water, if needed. If you are going to leave your bokashi bucket empty for a while before adding more food waste, then we would recommend cleaning it. Again, warm water is usually all that is needed.

      Hope that helps and happy composting 🙂

  3. Sini says:

    Hi,

    I am working on my very first batch of bokashi ever and have ran into a question I could use some help answering.

    I started filling up the container about a month ago and it is getting close to being full. So far everything has been running smooth however in the past couple of days I have started to notice an unpleasant odor in our apartment. It has taken me two days to identify the source of the smell, which eventually led me to the bokashi container. I opened the lid and everything seemed fine, both the smell as well as the appearance (nice smell and a tiny bit of white mold, no blue-green mold). I then went on to open the draining tap at the bottom and realized the smell was coming from there.

    I did some research (landing me to this website) and decided to add some extra bran mixing it well in. At first it seemed that there was no liquid in the bin at all however once picking up the bin after the thorough mixing I heard splashing and decided to try draining it out. I managed to pour out about 3 dl of the most offensive smelling juice ever (, honestly it smelled like the sewage water in Thailand ????)

    I believe this is all due to a confusion I was in that the tea gets drained only after the fermentation process is completed so in other words I have not drained the container once since I started the process (which was about a month ago). I can easily see why things went the way they did however what I am now wondering is can and should I still leave this patch to ferment for two weeks or is it going to be a complete waste of time and would I be better off just discharging the whole batch and starting from scratch?

    Thank you in advance!

    Kindly,
    Sini

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. As you’ve learnt, the bokashi tea can start to smell if it isn’t collected every day or two. If the rest of the bucket smells fine and there are no signs of blue/green mold then you are absolutely fine to let this bucket sit for 2 weeks to finish its fermentation. Remember to keep draining the tea every day or two. Pressing down on the top of the food waste can also help as it will squeeze out any liquid in the food waste.

      Too much liquid can cause the bin to fail. But it sounds like you corrected the problem before it got too bad. You may find that, if the food waste at the bottom got too damp from the excess bokashi tea, the bottom of the bin has a more pungent smell when you empty it out. It is still fine to use just make sure to mix it in well.

      Hope that helps and happy composting 🙂

  4. Carlos says:

    Hello,
    I successfully precomposted my 1st patch about 3 weeks ago and it smelled fermented which I know is a good sign and I trenched it in my garden.
    I just started filling my Bokashi bin again last week – I filled about a 1/4 of the bucket but today when I went back to add more food scraps, as I opened the bin I noticed a foul putrid smell (similar to a garbage bin smell) and I saw several live maggots (was not a pleasant sight haha). I didn’t notice any mold but there may or may not be bad mold – hard to tell since I put a good amount of bran. I’m pretty sure the problem was that I didn’t secure the lid of the bin well therefore it wasn’t airtight and some oxygen went inside.
    My question is – should I discard everything, clean the bin, and start over? Or should I continue filling the bin with bran and food scraps and make sure the lid is secured? I don’t know if it’s even okay to trench/dig the Bokashi compost that has gone bad, I tried to look online and I get no direct answers.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Yes, it sounds like this bin has started to fail. Probably, as you say, because the lid was not fully closed allowing some air and flies to get in. You have a few options. Firstly, you can add some extra bran, give the contents a good stir, reseal the lid, and leave it to sit for a week or two. You can sometimes save a failing bin by adding extra bokashi bran and good microbes and letting it sit for a bit longer. Secondly, you can bury the contents of the failing bin. Even a failed batch of bokashi pre-compost can be beneficial to your garden; its just more like to attract pests and may take longer than the usual 2 weeks to assimilate into the soil. Dig it deeper than usual, add a couple of extra handfuls of bran and be patient. Finally, you can throw the contents into your garbage (or green waste) and pencil this down to experience.

      Hope that helps and happy composting 🙂

  5. Cindy says:

    I have black mold on the sides of the bucket above the added food line. There is a fitted plate to push the air out and this mold is above that and under the plate. I have washed the bucket and everything else with a bleach solution and the mold has reappeared. Is there anything I can do?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. Dark mold above the pressing plate isn’t too much of a problem. It’s likely caused by food waste getting on to the insides of the bin when food is added and then being exposed to a lot of air. You could try adding the food waste more carefully and/or wiping the insides of the bin with you add the food waste. But as long as you are not seeing this dark mold on the main food waste, and your bin still has the distinctive bokashi fermentation smell, then everything should be fine.

      Happy composting 🙂

  6. Indiana Gal says:

    We have two bokashi buckets as it takes us about that long to fill one while the other ages. Been using them for a couple years now, using plenty of bran, emptying tea every few days, often have white mold, only rarely have had a batch get green mold. We enjoy the final product after they go through our outdoor composters, too. **HOWEVER ** our bokashi tea always smells terrible – never “yeasty” or “vinegary” – and the buckets themselves are pretty smelly after we empty and rinse them out. The reason we added bokashi process to our routine in first place was because we are in an urban area and had rats get into our compost when food waste put directly in them. Are we actually fermenting anything or just composting it in our kitchen??

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the final bokashi compost. The bokashi tea can start to smell if you don’t collect it regularly. Try to collect the tea every day or two and see if that helps with the odor. If you are not seeing patches of blue/green/black mold then it sounds like everything is working well. The sweet, pickly smell can be fairly strong, particularly if you are adding meat and cooked foods to your bokashi composter. But it should not smell foul or putrid. Is it the whole bin that smells terrible? Or just the bottom layers? If its just the bottom layers, then draining your tea more regularly may also help. The bokashi bucket can start to smell if it gets too wet.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  7. Cordelia says:

    Hello,
    I attempted my first Bokashi and it failed because I’ve realised after re-reading that I’m supposed to cover it with something. I forgot to do this. It has some white mould and also some black sooty mould on top. I realise I now need to dig it in the ground and bury it. I was away for two weeks and left the drained bokashi juice in a sealed jar. It was black. Clearly this is pretty putrid but I still put it on my compost heap. Have I spoiled my compost and potentially introduced pathogens? The bin is only a third of the way full, so it still has a long way to go until it’s full and then matured. Have a I spoiled my compost heap?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the questions. Firstly, don’t worry, bokashi composting is still fairly new to a lot of people and it can take a few cycles before you get in to the rhythm that works for you.

      You can cover the food waste to prevent too much air getting to it. Its not essential, but it is recommended especially if there is a large air space above your food waste.

      The bokashi tea can start to smell pretty bad if it is left too long. But don’t worry, it won’t do any harm to your compost pile. It just won’t be as beneficial as the fresh bokashi tea drained out of your bokashi bucket.

      And remember, you don’t have to wait until the bokashi bucket is full. Bokashi composting works on any scale. If you wish, you can cover the bin now it is a third full, seal the lid and leave to sit for two weeks before burying.

      Hope that helps. Happy composting 🙂

  8. Hello. I’ve unfortunately left my bokashi bin for 4-6 weeks without draining. I’ve added to the bucket and added bokashi bran.
    Today we drained the tea but it’s a really offensive smell and def gas build up in the bucket.
    Should I just discard everything and try again.
    Many thanks

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Tracey,

      The tea does get a bad smell if it is not drained regularly, but that does not mean that the whole bin has failed. The gas build up suggests that the bin is starting to fail, but it may not be lost. Is there any blue/green mold on the contents of the bin? Do the contents of the bin have a foul, rotten smell or do they smell pickled (this may be hard to tell as the odor from the old bokashi tea may overpower it)?

      If there is no obvious signs of blue/green mold on the fermented food waste, then we would suggest to go ahead and bury it as usual. Make sure to mix it well with the soil as you bury it. And be aware that the bottom of the bin will likely have the same foul odor as the bokashi tea. You’ll probably want to rinse the bin before starting to load it up again.

      Happy composting 🙂

  9. Jan says:

    Embarrassing confession. Have used bokashi successfully in my garden for two years. I had just left a batch to ferment and then I had to leave for a family emergency. I was away for a couple of months. On return, discovered the catchment part of my large double stacked tubs was full of very dark, foul-smelling leachate, almost TWO GALLONS of it! Is there anything I can do with it, like drenching my traditional compost pile with it? Or some other use? (Drain cleaner not an option – I have a whole house gray water system and it all goes directly into a filtration garden with cana and papyrus. Don’t want to kill the plants!) If I have to simply dispose of it, will it harm anyhing if I dig a deep hole and pour it in? Also,while I was emptying the bin, I spilled some on my stone patio. My one-year-old 65lb. pup licked some up, then vomited copiously shortly after. I hadn’t read anything about pet toxicity of the bokashi tea anywhere, but I think bokashi users should be aware of the possibility and take care that their pets don’t drink or even lick up a bit of the undiluted tea.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Wow! That is a lot of bokashi tea. Firstly, sorry to hear about your pup. The bokashi tea is not toxic to animals but it is fairly acidic. It may be the acidity that reacted badly with your pet, in the same way as if they had drank pickle juice. Anyway, I hope your pup is better now.

      As for disposing of the tea, yes, you can dig a hole and pour it in. Just remember that the tea is acidic. When undiluted, the tea can burn and damage roots and plants. If you have a compost or leaf pile, we would recommend pouring it there. The bokashi bacteria will give your compost pile a boost. Otherwise, find an area of your garden away from sensitive plants and pour it there.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  10. […] Troubleshooting: What to do if your bokashi bin goes bad […]

  11. Can Shen says:

    Hi! My bin is at the end of 2 weeks fermentation. Before would empty liquid every day, few days ago forgot to empty it for two days.
    The upper part still smells normal, but the part where the liquid comes out, also the liquid smells really bad like an unflushed toilet. What should I do now? I do see white mold beside the bottom smelling really bad. In the process of making food waste I used a food processor to chop and purée the food waste. So it might get more wet.
    First time doing bokashi don’t really know what to do now?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. The liquid can start to smell if not drained regularly. You say that you are draining every day, which is great. However, as you are adding pureed food waste, the waste will likely be fairly dense in the bucket. This may make it harder for the liquids to drain through and the lower layers of food waste may be fairly damp. Too much moisture can cause the bin to start smelling (and over time a wet bin may fail). We would recommend that you press down hard on the top of your food waste to squeeze out liquids. Using an old plate or plastic bag on the top makes it easier to press down on the top of the food waste.
      Hope that helps! Happy composting 🙂

  12. Tara says:

    I had a pest inspection done and the inspector found termites in my bokashi pet waste unit. Is this typical, and what can I do to fix the issue?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Tara,

      Thanks for the question. This isn’t something we have come across ourselves and I’m not sure why the termites would be attracted to the bokashi’d pet waste. We don’t have any specific recommendations for the bokashi composting, and we would suggest you follow the recommendations of the pest inspector.

      Please let us know if you have any specific advice that others may benefit from.

  13. Jessie says:

    hello. we have a pet waste bokashi and it is full of flies (like literally hundreds). What can i do to remediate this and avoid it going forward? thank you!

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. Try adding a layer of good quality garden soil and an extra handful of bokashi bran. This will reduce the odors that are attracting the flies and also help speed up the breakdown of the pet waste.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  14. […] you see dark mold on your food waste, make sure to check our troubleshooting guide to help prevent it happening […]

  15. Godson says:

    Hi, I found some useful info here on bokashi failure, could you add references from literature or any source material so I can get even more detailed information on the conditions that cause the bokashi process to fail.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Great to hear that you found this post useful. The information is based on our experience and knowledge of the bokashi process so no literature or source materials to reference. You may find the EMRO Japan website interesting (https://www.emrojapan.com/) plenty of research papers and information about the bokashi process.
      Happy composting 🙂

  16. Lian says:

    Hi,
    I need some moral support with my failed bokashi bin please! On reading the above posts, I realised I have done so many wrong things, I left the bokashi bin outside in the sun, it has maggots in it, in a putrid liquid. I would like to bury it. What should I do first? Should I add fresh bokashi bran to the bin? How long should I wait to bury it?
    Thank you for any help here.
    Lian

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for the questions. If you want to add the contents of the failed bin to your garden, then we would suggest burying it nice and deep. Mix it in well to the surrounding soil and add a few generous handfuls of bokashi bran to the bokashi bin contents when mixing it in to your soil. This will likely take longer than usual to break down, but it will do eventually. Then give your bokashi bucket a thorough wash with warm water and start again.

      Don’t worry, bokashi composting is new to many people and it can take a couple of cycles to get used to the process. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions.
      Happy composting 🙂

  17. Sandy says:

    My bokashi bran is in an airtight container. However, I’ve been away over the summer and when I’ve come back and want to use it the bean is covered in white furry mould. Is it still OK to use or should I discard it and get more?
    Thank you,
    Sandy

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Sandy,

      White mold in your bokashi bran may be a sign that some moisture got in to your container over the summer. It is perfectly fine to use, although the shelf life may be reduced as the product is no longer completely dry.

      Happy composting 🙂

  18. Jon says:

    Hi,

    Loving the discussion here. I do have an odd situation on my hands now. My bokashi bin has just been thru its two week fermentation today. Of course i do drain the tea every one or two or three days at most. Just a week ago i started to notice the tea is smelling like rotten eggs. Just last night (the 13th night) i decided to open the bin to check if i have blue/green mould in there but it looks normal. I cannot tell if it smells good or bad but it has a sharp acidic smell (lots of used lemon in there)and no sign of green mould or white mould. I then decided to loosen up the entire bin and added a couple of handfuls of bran and covered the mix with plastic.

    Is this normal? For the tea to smell bad. The waste looks fine tho but i have lots of egg shell in there as well, does that make the mix smell like rotten eggs?

    Sorry for the long post and thank you in advance for your help!

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Interesting question. The tea can start to smell if it is left too long before being drained. But if you are draining every few days, this shouldn’t be the cause. Maybe there was a pocket of tea that formed and wasn’t able to drain freely? You could try pushing on the top of the food waste to squeeze out extra liquid. That said, it sounds like your bucket is doing fine and you did exactly the right thing in mixing in some extra bokashi bran. The sweet, acidic smell and no green/blue mold is what you are looking for in a successful bokashi bucket. Keep doing what you are doing 🙂

  19. paul says:

    Is it a good idea to mix up the bucket as you add to it? my first bucket, i just berried, shows some potato skins still not broken down.
    Is there any negative impacts to keeping the compost in the bucket for more than 2 weeks before you put it underground?
    How long should i wait to start using that section of garden? currently i am adding to my garlic bed. I think I can add a bucket every two weeks, until September. will that be sufficient time to break down before planting for the winter?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for the questions. Mixing the contents of the bokashi bucket can help to ensure that the bokashi bran is spread throughout the food waste. However, if you follow the recommended method of adding about an inch of food and about a tablespoon of bokashi bran, then there should be no need to mix the food waste as well. The bokashi pre-compost (the food waste after 2 weeks of fermentation) often looks very similar to the food waste that was added to the bokashi bucket. Maybe a bit darker but it will essentially look the same as the food waste when added to the bucket. But do not worry, lots of changes have happened that cannot be seen by the naked eye.

      It is perfectly ok to leave the bokashi bucket to ferment for longer than 2 weeks. In fact, sometimes longer can be better to ensure that the contents have fermented completely. Once the fermentation is complete, the microbes will go formant until they are buried in the soil or the compost pile.

      The bokashi pre-compost should take 2 weeks to fully break down in a healthy soil. This time may increase slightly in depleted soils that are lacking in soil life and/or if soil temperatures drop. So your plan to keep adding bokashi pre-compost until September should give ample time to plant for the winter.

      Happy composting 🙂

  20. Shell says:

    Is it okay if my soil generator smells like fermented bokashi?. It smells really good but doesn’t smell like usual soil/dirt.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Shell,

      Thanks for the question. Yes, it is absolutely ok if the soil factory has a pickly, bokashi-type smell. This is likely a sign that there are still a few small pieces of bokashi pre-compost that has not broken down entirely. Give it a thorough mix through and leave for another week or so, if possible.

      Happy composting 🙂

  21. Justin Knapp says:

    So I made a 2 bucket system. The first bucket I put a brick in and the second bucket I drilled multiple holes at the bottom. Will this affect the fermenting because it’s not completely airtight but close. Also is it possible to add too much bokashi bran to the food scraps? So far I’ve done 10 gallons. One bucket smelled bad and the other bucket not so bad. I’ve buried the scraps now after 4 weeks. Should I wait another 4-6 weeks to plant in that area? Also I have one of the screw top lids for the 5 gallon bucket. Do I still need to put a plate or something over the scraps in addition to the lid? I’m just worried I did it wrong and I definitely want to plant in the areas I’ve put the bokashi scraps in.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for all of the questions. Let me answer them in order for you:

      – Bokashi composting in as anaerobic process, so the bokashi bucket needs to be completely airtight for successful bokashi composting.
      – No, you can never add too much bokashi bran; in fact, the more the better.
      – For the area where you buried the failed bucket, have a dig down and see if there is any of the food waste left. If there is, add a generous amount of bokashi bran and cover over for another few weeks. Then check back. Once the majority of the food waste has been assimilated in to the soil you will be good to go ahead and plant.
      – You can cover the food waste with a plastic bag or plate to keep the air away from the fermentation process. This is a personal choose, and is not essential in order to get a successful bokashi bin.

      Happy composting 🙂

  22. Ssm says:

    Hello,
    I am starting my first bokashi batch. I am halfway through the bucket but it doesn’t have a sweet vinegar smell, it smells more like food waste. It’s not putrid, but it’s not good. Should I abandon this batch? Should I mix it up with more bokashi bran?

    Thank you!

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. Do you see any blue/green mold on the food waste? If so, this would be confirmation that the bin has failed. If there is no blue/green mold then we would suggest mixing more bran in to the food waste to ensure that there are plenty of bokashi microbes to ferment the food waste.
      Happy composting 🙂

  23. Michael says:

    Hi,
    Very new to Bokashi and I have poured some Bokashi juice back on top of my Bakashi bin which is full. Have I killed it? Or will it be ok? No bad smells as of yet.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi!
      Thanks for the question. No, pouring the tea back in to the bin won’t kill it. These are the same microbes already in the bin, so it may even benefit the bokashi bin slightly.

      On a side note; you can’t use the bokashi tea instead of bokashi bran. The bokashi bran contains the ideal mother culture for bokashi composting. The mixture of microbes in the bokashi tea will differ from that in the original mother culture and therefore will not be as effective for bokashi composting. I tried this myself when I was first starting out with bokashi composting and within just a couple of days I started to see blue/green mold and the bin started to smell putrid; a sure sign that the bokashi tea was not effective for bokashi composting.

      Happy composting 🙂

  24. Mike says:

    My Bokashi batch went horribly wrong – putrid, vomit smell. Before I researched ‘bokashi gone wrong’ I went ahead and mixed it in with my compost in the compost bin… Have I created a health hazard? What’s the worst case scenario here?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      No health hazard at all. The food waste will break down eventually in your compost pile, it will just take longer and as the food waste was not properly fermented, there is a greater risk that it will attract pests. The best thing to do is add a few generous handfuls of bokashi bran to your compost pile and thoroughly mix in the failed bokashi pre-compost.
      Happy composting 🙂

  25. Hello Nicky and thank you for this interesting and educational site! I have been doing the Bokashi system, mostly with luck, but not in the winter. I have quite a large garden (in Sweden) and I use the original Bokashi bucket and bran. In the beginning I followed a Swedish site and was told that the size of the bits of waste did not matter. I notice, however, that you put great emphasis on the bits being cut into quite small pieces…I`ll start doing this immediately…
    Then to my question:
    There are several different opinions on the nourishment in the ¨tea¨. Some say it is very potent and good, others that it does not content any goodness at all…Could you please enlighten me?
    And by the way, I have made the mistake of putting to much ground coffee from the filter of the coffee machine and it blocked the filter of the bucket…I have now reduced it and just ad a little bit and only when the bucket is at least half full. I also add a bit of the liquid coffee that is always left in the pot and mugs…
    Yours sincerely, Agnes (from Norway, but house and garden in Sweden…)

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Agnes,

      Thanks for the questions 🙂

      Firstly, to talk to your comment about the size of the bits of food waste. The reason we encourage you to spend the time chopping up the pieces is to speed up the bokashi process. The larger the pieces, the longer it takes for the microbes to fully ferment the centre of the waste. You can leave the pieces larger (and often times I do) but just remember that this may slow down the process.

      Your question about the tea is a common one. People who are familiar with more traditional compost teas often ask what the NPK value is etc. But this is missing the real benefits of the bokashi compost tea. The power of the bokashi tea is the microbes. The bokashi tea is teeming with these same great microbes that are found in the bokashi bran and the bokashi compost. These microbes form the foundations to all healthy soil forming unique symbiotic relationships with the plant roots. These microbes release essential nutrients and minerals for the plant roots to absorb and the plants to thrive.

      And interesting comment about filter coffee. Be careful not to add too much liquid to your bokashi bucket. Too much liquid can cause your bucket to fail, but it sounds like you have been doing this for a while and have found a great balance that works for you (and your coffee intake 😉 )

      Happy composting!

  26. Els Mannekens says:

    Hi, I have the same problem as Perdita du Pre. However, I don’t hear any liquid inside the bucket, and the inside still smells fine.
    The lid tends to jump open from time to time, due to some overpressure.
    When I open the tap, I also hear some air coming out, due to overpressure, but no liquid.
    ? What can be happening?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for the question. As I mentioned to Perdita, the amount of bokashi tea will vary depending on the contents of your bin. Fruit and vegetable peelings (with lots of liquid in them) will produce more bokashi tea than drier materials. Not getting tea, does not mean that your bokashi bucket has failed.

      However, there should not be any pressure build up in your bin. The bokashi fermentation process will not produce any gases. If you are getting a pressure build up, it suggests that there is rotting happening and that the bin is failing. You may be able to recover it by adding a handful or two of bokashi bran and mixing it through the food waste (as best you can). Leave the bin for a couple of weeks to ferment. Check every day or two for bokashi tea.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  27. Shannon says:

    My bokashi bin spigot doesn’t drain…i turn it all the way on and nothing comes out. Its been full over 2 weeks sitting outside.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Shannon,

      The amount of bokashi tea will vary depending on the contents of your bin. Fruit and vegetable peelings (with lots of liquid in them) will produce more bokashi tea than drier materials. Not getting tea, does not mean that your bokashi bucket has failed.

      Maybe the holes in the drain plate are blocked and the tea cannot drain through to the reservoir. Tilt your bin from side to side. Do you hear any liquid slopping about? If so, its likely that the holes are blocked up. Try pressing the top of the food waste hard with the masher to squeeze the liquid out of the bottom.

      Happy composting!

  28. Perdita du Pre says:

    Hi I’ve just finished filling up my first composter. All smells fine but we’re not getting any “tea” when we try to drain. How long should we be waiting for any liquid to come out? Does no liquid draining mean that something has gone wrong?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Thanks for the question. The amount of bokashi tea will vary depending on the contents of your bin. Fruit and vegetable peelings (with lots of liquid in them) will produce more bokashi tea than drier materials. Not getting tea, does not mean that your bokashi bucket has failed.

      Maybe the holes in the drain plate are blocked and the tea cannot drain through to the reservoir. Tilt your bin from side to side. Do you hear any liquid slopping about? If so, its likely that the holes are blocked up. Try pressing the top of the food waste hard with the masher to squeeze the liquid out of the bottom.

      Happy composting!

  29. Kevin says:

    Hi should I store my bokashi bran in an ear tight container does it make any difference

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Yes, bokashi bran should be stored in an airtight container, around room temperature and out of direct sunlight.

      • Kevin says:

        Thanks for that it’s just the container I have is not airtight and the last quarter has gone a bit hard can I still use it

  30. Marion says:

    Hello, new beginner here. I made the mistake of not draining off the liquid and now the brew is black and putrid. If I drain the liquid and add more grains, will that bring it back to balance?
    And what could I do with the excess liquid.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Marion,

      Thanks for the question. Does the bin still look and smell healthy? If so, then you can simply drain the tea and pour it down the drain. If the contents of the bin are showing signs of failure (blue/green mold or putrid smells) then you may be able to recover it by adding plenty of bokashi bran and giving it a good mix.

      For future, we recommend draining the bokashi tea every day or two to make sure that it is fresh and teeming with the beneficial bokashi microbes.

      Happy composting 🙂

  31. Darcy says:

    Hi,
    4 weeks ago,I buried my precompost bokashi in my garden but I didn’t read the instruction properly so I just dig a hole and poured the bokashi in the hole and covered it instead of mixing the precompost with the soil. Now when I checked the precompost didn’t seem breakdown and it has quite nasty smell. Also I think I see lots of little white worms in the soil. I guess I must did it wrong. What should I do now?
    Thanks and hope to hear from your advice

    • Nicki Casley says:

      No need to worry. To recover this bokashi compost, mix in a couple of handfuls of the bokashi bran and a few good shovel-fulls of soil. Chop up any large clumps of bokashi pre-compost, then cover with a generous few inches of garden soil and leave for another couple of weeks. Effectively re-burying the bokashi pre-compost.

  32. Jessica Johnston-Hill says:

    Where to dispose of the failed batches? Municipal Garbage? Bury it anyways in the garden? That would surely attract rats. Thanks,
    JEsse

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Yes, you can dispose of it in the municipal garbage or bury it in your garden. If you are burying it in your garden, make sure to bury it deeper than usual and add a couple of extra handfuls of bokashi bran. It will break down eventually, but it will take quite a longer than usual.

  33. Julie says:

    Hi Bokashi gurus, I’m trying my first go at bokashi. I think I successfully made it through step 1 of filling my bokashi bucket and fermenting my food scraps. When done step 1, my bokashi had a kind of vinegary/pickled smell but I never did get any white mold. About 6 or 7 weeks ago I transferred to contents to a soil factory. I’m in a townhouse and don’t have access to much garden soil so I used bags of garden soil from the home centre to build my factory. My factory container is an old green waste bin so is tall and deep and fairly airtight. I had chopped my green waste very small when I added to the bokashi bin and as I built my soil factory I made several layers… first soil, then scraps and I was careful to mix the scraps with some soil as I built each layer. I then covered the whole thing with several inches of soil. I kept the bin in my garage away from sunlight and high temps. I just inspected it and now it has a not very nice, ‘kind of garbage dump’ smell. I had high hopes to be able to use the finished product to amend soil in my containers. Has it gone off or can I still save it? Thanks for your help!

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Were you able to add drainage holes to the bottom of your soil factory; we realise this is not always possible depending on where you are keeping the soil factory? Soil factories without drainage hole run the risk of becoming too damp and can create this ‘garbage dump’ smell.

      But do not worry, all is not lost. You have 2 options:
      1. Firstly you can mix through a couple of handfuls of bokashi bran and add another inch or two of soil to the top. Then wait for a couple more weeks.
      2. Alternatively (and this is likely the easier and preferred option), simply use this pre-compost/soil mix in the bottom of you containers. Empty the container, leaving an inch or so of original soil at the bottom. Add a generous layer of your bokashi soil factory contents and then top with a few inches of the original container soil. Repeat for all your containers. Save any extra soil to use for your next soil factory as this soil will have more life in it than the sterile bagged compost. Alternatively simply add your bokashi pre-compost directly to your containers next time you are refreshing them (https://bokashiliving.com/using-bokashi-in-planters-and-containers/).

  34. Shar says:

    Hello! I am very new to Bokashi, I failed my first week and have green molds from bin. I have a few questions
    1) Is it safe to bury it in a garden compost (for a vegetable garden)?
    2) Will it make the soil toxic (d/t green mold)?
    3) If I make a bokashi soil generator, does it need to be airtight? what if it rains? I live in a studio without anywhere to put the bokashi soil generator except an open parking space.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi, thanks for the questions. Tough to hear that your first bin failed. But don’t worry, most people quickly find a rhythm with their bokashi composting so don’t feel disheartened.

      1. Yes, the bokashi pre-compost is fine to bury in a vegetable garden. Just add a couple of generous handfuls of bokashi bran when you bury it. Bury it a bit deeper and leave it for a couple of weeks longer. It will break down eventually.

      2. No, it will not make the soil toxic. The life in your soil will break down all of the food waste, it will just take longer to break down the green molds. But the good life and good bacteria in your soil will take over in the end.

      3. No, the soil factory does not need to be airtight, though you should cover it to keep the rain out.

  35. Cara says:

    Hi there,

    Just did our first bokashi and followed all the steps, but the smell was truly horrendous! Firstly, the drained liquid smelled like acidic vomit, and the bin itself pretty bad as well. When I emptied I noticed lots of white mould, which I understand is good, but surely it shouldn’t smell like this? We used the liquid rather than the grains, could this be the problem? It’s also been very hot so wondering if it’s just a temperature thing?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      No, the fermented food waste (bokashi pre-compost) should not smell like vomit. It should have a sweet, pickly smell, possibly with a slight yeasty odor too.

      As you say, white mold is a good sign but if the bokashi bucket smells rancid, then it suggests that the bokashi bucket has gone bad. Take a look at our troubleshooting blog post for common reasons why the bokashi bucket may have failed and how to prevent it happening in the future. https://bokashiliving.com/troubleshooting-what-to-do-if-you-bokashi-bin-goes-bad/

      I have not personally used the bokashi spray, but note that it has a much shorter shelf life than the bokashi bran (just 2-3 months). Make sure that you are using new bokashi spray. And make sure you are getting a good coverage each time you add it.

      Temperature could also be a problem. The bokashi microbes thrive around room temperature. At lower temperatures, the microbe activity will decline but at much higher temperatures the microbes can be destroyed. Try to keep your bokashi bucket and bokashi spray as close to room temperature as possible, and out of direct sunlight.

      Feel free to post any other questions you may have.
      Happy composting

  36. Antoinette Halberstadt says:

    Seems weird that mine was doing fine and smelling great at the point when the bucket was full, at which point I stopped adding, sealed it with saran wrap, put the lid back on and left it for two weeks. Then when I opened it it stank to high heaven.

    Is there something that can go wrong just at that last stage? Next time should I add a whack of the bran before that letting-it-sit stage?

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Agree, it is unusual for things to go wrong at this stage. It is most likely that the liquid (bokashi tea) built up in the bottom of the bucket and caused the bin to go bad.

      Ideas to try:
      1. Add a drainage plate, liquid reservoir and spigot to your bucket. Or consider investing in a ready-made bokashi bucket.
      2. Add more dry material to the bottom of your bucket to soak up the extra liquids.
      3. Avoid adding moist and/or juicy food waste to limit the amount of tea produced.

      Hope that helps. Feel free to ask any other questions you may have.

  37. Mrudula says:

    Hello, i am using Bokashi Composting for my kitchen waste. I put aside my bokashi bin for 15 day for fermentation after it got full. I dont have a garden so i dumped the precompost in a plastic drum along with cocopeat. But now it is smelling really bad. How to do curing of precompost successfully if there is no garden to bury the contents.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Mrudula,

      Thanks for your comment (and FAQ). When using a bokashi soil factory be sure to add plenty of good quality garden soil. Also make sure to mix and chop the pre-compost really well. As your FAQ eluded to, it is also important to prevent excess moisture turning the soil factory bad.

      Happy composting,
      The Bokashi Living team

  38. gunes sezgin says:

    Hi Nicki,

    Thank you very much for your quick response. I will make a fresh start with three different bins and check the variables. I will keep you informed as soon as i achieve a successfull one.

  39. gunes sezgin says:

    Hi Nicki,
    I am using homemade lactobacillus serum and sawdust for my bokashi. I finished a successful one and buried it. I was very happy with the outcome and it smelled really good. However on my other trials its smell is not as good as it used to be and there is a lot of gas coming out of the bin. I am especially concerned about the gas. Nearly all the conditions are same with the previous successful ones. I am becoming suspicious about my serum but the ph is around 4 when I checked it and the serum alone still smells goood. What could have gone wrong? Many thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Gunes,

      Thanks for the question and interesting to hear your experiments with bokashi composting. Without more information about your process for making and using the serum and sawdust it is hard to give a definite answer. However, my first thoughts would be that maybe the serum has been stored incorrectly. This is obviously a living ingredient and needs to be stored out of direct sunlight and within a few degrees of room temperature.

      The bokashi fermentation process should give off very little (if any) gas. Getting a lot of gas from your bin suggests that some putrification is happening. But its odd that it does not smell putrid?! Maybe the items in your bin are too big? Or maybe the serum has become less active?

      We would suggest checking on the way that the serum is stored and increasing the amount that you add to the bokashi bucket.
      Would love to hear how you get on.
      Thanks and happy bokashi’ing
      The folks at Bokashi Living

  40. Janet says:

    If there are maggots in the bokashi bin, will the whole bin go bad? I noticed some when I emptied my kitchen container in today. I covered them with the bran powder and will seal it now for 2 weeks as it is full

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Janet,

      Its likely that an opportunistic fly laid some eggs in the food waste prior to adding it to your bokashi bucket, or when you had the lid off your bokashi bucket. This can happen from time to time but don’t worry. As long as the bin smells sweet and pickly and there is no blue/green mold, then the bin won’t fail. In fact, the anaerobic and acidic environment inside the bokashi bucket will mean that they will die off pretty quickly (and add protein to your bokashi compost 😉 ).

      Throw an extra tablespoon or two of bokashi bran into the bokashi bucket to make sure that there are enough microbes to create an acidic environment.

      Some of the small maggots may escape when you drain the tea. The tea is still perfectly fine to be used; I just wouldn’t use it on house plants.

      Please comment here if you have any other questions.
      Happy bokashi’ing 🙂

  41. Hello,

    We are trying to start a Bokashi composting system for our small guesthouse/B&B. We produce a lot of food waste/plate scrapings during breakfast service and need an efficient way of dealing with it – will it harm the process if the bin is left open during service (around 2 hours) as waste is added gradually, and contents then squashed, sprinkled and sealed at the end of each morning? It will take approximately 2-3 days to fill each bin, so we are thinking that the contents will not have time to putrefying in that time, even though bins will obvs be exposed to oxygen? Keeping a separate bin that needs decanting into the Bokashi every day will simply not be practical. Many thanks in advance for your advice.

    • Nicki Casley says:

      Hi Jennie,

      Thanks for your question. I responded to your FAQ here.

      Please let me know if you have any follow up questions. We would love to hear how you get on 🙂

      Nicki and the Bokashi Living team

  42. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    I don’t have a garden only my patio, would I be able to make compost just leaving it in the bin? If so how long roughly would that take?

    • Nicki says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks for the question. The food waste in the bin is fermented and you need to add it to garden soil for the final stage. However, this does not mean that you need a garden. Many people make a soil factory to finish off their fermented food waste. This (put simply) is a rubbermaid container in which you mix your soil and bokashi fermented food waste. Read more here

      Hope that helps 🙂
      Nicki

  43. Nicki says:

    We recommend that you cut food waste into 1-2″ pieces. The larger the pieces the longer it takes to break down. If you are adding larger pieces then be more generous with the amount of bokashi bran that you add, and expect it to take a little bit longer to ferment and to break down after you bury it. And remember, skins and peels create natural protection for fruits and vegetables. Make sure to chop up any whole fruits/veggies before putting them in the bokashi bucket so that the microbes can get at the flesh inside.

  44. Mark says:

    Thanks, this is a really helpful post. Over the winter, I was concerned that the bin wasn’t getting any mould, so I thought is wasn’t working and was thinking of stopping. Having read this I realise that it was working fine and I will carry on bokashiing. Its really a good way of getting rid of smelly food waste.

    • Nicki says:

      Great to hear it! As long as there is no blue/green moldy or foul, putrid smell then you can be confident things are working well.

      • Baron says:

        So. What do you do, exactly, if it goes bad. I forgot to drain the leachate out of my home made bokahi system made from home Depot buckets for a couple days and the whole thing smelled putrid. No amount of washing seemed to fix the problem. Should I throw out what is in there? Or bury it? Any thoughts on cleaning the buckets?

        Thank you

        • Nicki says:

          So you’ve drained the leachate and buried the pre-compost but the bin itself still smells? If so, have you tried leaving the open bin out in the direct sun; sunlight is amazing! Also, have you tried setting up your bokashi bucket again. The bokashi microbes and the anaerobic conditions will also help to kill the bacteria associated with rotting and the putrid smell.

          On another note, I’m surprised that leaving the leachate for a couple of days caused the whole bin to go bad. Was it starting to smell beforehand?

          • BARON B KANTER says:

            Not that I noticed, but it’s possible. I think the scraps I put in there were too whole to get digested appropriately. Could that have been the problem?

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