Bokashi tea: What is it and how can I use it?

Bokashi bucket spigot

If you are looking to start bokashi at home, then you have probably read about ‘bokashi tea’ or ‘bokashi leachate’. The bad news is that this isn’t a new super-healthy drink that will make you feel 50 years younger but the good news is that it is a by-product of the bokashi process and is a fabulous liquid fertilizer, and much more!

What is bokashi tea?

Bokashi tea, juice or leachate is the liquid that can be tapped from your bokashi kitchen composter. It contains a mixture of all the goodness from your bokashi kitchen composter; bokashi microbes, liquids from the food scraps and liquids produced during the fermentation process.

How can I use my bokashi tea?

  • Nutrient-rich fertilizer

Lush, healthy vegetable garden

Bokashi tea is a very nutrient rich fertilizer that can be used on your indoor plants, lawns, veggies and flowers. This can be added to areas of your garden where it would be difficult to add bokashi pre-compost, such as on you lawn or in heavily planted areas.

Bokashi tea is quite acidic and therefore we recommend a dilution rate of around 1:100. You may wish to test the dilution rate on sensitive plants and you may find that less sensitive plants can tolerate a lower dilution rate. The diluted bokashi tea fertilizer should be applied to the soil as the foliage will be more sensitive to high acidity levels.

Remember bokashi tea is teeming with the beneficial bacteria. We suggest you use your bokashi tea as soon as possible after draining it from your bokashi kitchen composter so that your plants can benefit from all of the goodness in it. If left unused for more than a few hours, then the tea may start to go bad…. and smell pretty awful!

  • Compost enhancer

Bokashi tea has millions of the microbes from your bokashi kitchen composter. These can be incredibly beneficial to your compost pile and can be poured directly into it. The bacteria will help to speed up the composting process in your compost pile. Adding bokashi tea is a great way to add moisture to your compost pile, if needed. Again, be sure to use fresh bokashi tea that you have just drained from your kitchen composter.

  • Drain unblocker

If you can’t use your bokashi tea straight away, don’t worry. You can simply poor it down the drain. It is completely natural and will not pollute. In fact, the bokashi bacteria can help to unblock clogged drains and are beneficial to the water treatment works too.

How soon should I get bokashi tea from my indoor kitchen composter?

This will depend on the materials that you are putting in your bokashi composter, but you will typically start to get bokashi tea after a couple of days. Don’t worry if it takes longer.

How much bokashi tea should I get?

Again, this will depend on the food scraps that you are putting into your bokashi kitchen composter. If you are adding lots of juicy fruit peelings and rinds then you can expect to get more bokashi tea than if you are adding lots of dry items. On average you will likely see a couple of tablespoons every day or two at first, up to around 1-2 cups every day or two.

What to do if you are not getting any bokashi tea

The amount of bokashi tea will vary depending on the contents of your bin. Fruit 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. You say that your bin smells like beer, so it sounds like everything is working fine.

If you are not getting bokashi tea, it is possible that the holes in your spigot or drain plate are clogged up. 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.

Alternatively, try pressing down the sealed lid with the spigot open. This can sometimes force any tea through the spigot.

Do not add water or extra liquids to your bucket to encourage it to produce tea. Too much liquid can cause the bin to fail.

If you are not getting any bokashi tea, the best thing to do is usually to be patient. If the bin appears to be working correctly and not failed, then some tea should come eventually.

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

You might also like to read

Cleaning drains and pipes with bokashi tea

Bokashi composting: how to get started

55 thoughts on “Bokashi tea: What is it and how can I use it?

    1. Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the question. Rainwater or dechlorinated is best but most people just use regular tap water. The chlorine will slightly reduce the viability of the bokashi microbes but if you are using the diluted bokashi tea immediately this is not a significant problem.

      Happy composting!

    2. Hi there
      How can I store Bokashi tea for a long time. Can I multiple the microbes by adding jaggery and thus saving the tea for a long time.

      1. We recommend that you use the bokashi tea shortly after collecting it. The beneficial bokashi microbes will reduce over time when the tea is stored. Adding jaggery (or other sugars) will help to feed the microbes and, in theory, prolong the shelf-life of the bokashi tea. However, most people find that if they bokashi compost throughout the year, they have a sufficient, fairly continuous supply of bokashi tea.
        Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  1. It was my first time draining the bokashi tea, and I have managed spill it on my hands … It was stinging. I have kids and a dog around. Does it have any ill effects on animals and humans?

    1. No, the bokashi tea does not have any ill effects on animals and humans. The bokashi bacteria are completely harmless. The bokashi tea is quite acidic so the stinging was likely similar to the sensation of getting vinegar on your hands. This could be quite uncomfortable, especially if you have small cuts or dry skin.

    1. It is best to drain the tea every few days as too much liquid can cause the bokashi bucket to fail. If you are unable to (or forget to) drain the tea then all is not lost. Drain as soon as you can. As long as the tea and bokashi bucket still have the characteristic sweet, pickly smell, then everything is fine.

        1. The bokashi microbes cannot survive in an overly moist environment. Adding too much liquid to your bokashi bucket will mean that the bokashi microbes cannot thrive.

      1. Hi do i need to immediately drain the tea? Will the tea smell bad if it stayed inside the bucket for too long? Why will it smell?

        1. The tea should be drained every couple of days. If the tea isn’t drained regularly then a couple of things may happen. Firstly, the tea may go bad as the bokashi microbes in the tea are exposed to aerobic conditions in the reservoir of the bokashi bucket. And, secondly, too much liquid may build up in the bottom of the fermenting food waste, causing the bokashi bucket to go bad.

      2. My husband started a bucket a year and a half ago. It smells awful and has a lot of liquid, but doesnโ€™t have mold. Can I save it at all or should I just dump it and start over?

        1. A successful bin should have a sweet-pickly smell (which can be fairly strong) and either white mold or no mold at all. Blue/green mold is a sign that the bin has failed. How often have you been draining the tea? We recommend that the tea is drained every day or two. If you leave the tea too long it can go bad and start to smell pretty awful. Try draining the tea; press down on the food waste to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

          If the contents of the bin have a vinegary smell and no blue/green mold, then you are good to bury it as usual. If it shows signs of blue/green mold or has a foul, putrid smell, then the bin has failed. You can either dump it in the garbage and start again, or bury it deeper than usual with a handful of bokashi bran and leave it for a couple of months. The life in your soil will break it down eventually.

  2. How do I fertilize my lawn with bokashi tea? do i have to filter my water to get rid of chlorine and chloramines?

    1. Simply add the tea to your watering can and dilute to 1:100; approximately half to a full cup works well for a standard watering can. Then water across your lawn. If you have access to rainwater, or can leave your water to stand for at least 24 hours; that is ideal. Otherwise tap water works perfectly fine for diluting bokashi tea.

    1. Undiluted bokashi tea works best to kill shallow rooted weeds. Couch grass is a persistent weed due to its tough, long roots. However, using undilute bokashi tea may be helpful to kill new, more tender shoots.

  3. If the pipes in your house are copper and at least 35 years old, will they be adversely affected by the “highly acidic” undiluted โ€˜teaโ€™?

    1. You are right in being cautious about adding the acidic bokashi tea to copper pipes, the high acidity could cause damage if you regularly pour it down the drain. Make sure to dilute before pouring down your drains with copper pipes.

  4. How often can I use the diluted bokashi tea on my outdoor vegie garden? Is using it everytime I drain the bin (1-2 times weekly) too much?

    1. The answer will depend on how much tea you are getting and how large your veggie garden is. However, we recommend using the tea up to once per week.

        1. Hi Laura,

          Thanks for your question. The answer will vary depending on a number of factors. How much soil is the plant in? What plant is it? What season is it? Bokashi tea is very acidic and has to be diluted at least 1:100 before applying. Houseplants typically don’t need much and we would recommend only using once a week (less than this during the non-growing season).

          Houseplants are grown in a finite amount of soil and if you apply too much bokashi tea the pH of the soil may become too acidic.

          Hope that helps ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. The N-P-K values will vary depending on what food waste was put into the bokashi bucket. But the power in the bokashi tea comes from the microbes (rather than the N-P-K). The bokashi microbes are hugely beneficial to your soil and garden. These microbes form the critical foundation to the soil food web. These microbes form a symbiotic relationship with your plant roots to release nutrients and microbes that are otherwise inaccessible to the plant roots.

  5. Love your website and the very very comprehensive information and instructions! I really appreciate it!

    I recently bought a faulty bokashi bin – not airtight, and had my waste putrefying and full of maggots despite keeping it cloes. As I”m in Australia, I won’t be able to get your products easily, or do you have distributors in Melbourne?

    In regards to bokashi tea, how should it smell? As my bokashi went bad, I am not too sure what to expect if it goes right or how to identify if it goes bad.

    1. Hi Christopher,

      Thanks for the kind words and glad that you’ve found our website useful. Unfortunately we do not have a distributor in Australia and the cost of shipping our bins to you would likely be prohibitive.

      The tea should have a similar sweet, pickly smell to the bokashi compost. If it has a foul, putrid smell then it has gone bad. Make sure to drain your tea every couple of days so that the microbes are fresh and healthy when applied to your plants and garden.

  6. Hi there,
    Im looking to add this with some biochar and compost into my soil.Could I use the bokashi tea to help activate the biochar?I was thinking that the microbes might die as these microbes will be anaerobic rather that aerobic?

    Thanks

    1. Hi, Thanks for the question. Bokashi pairs brilliantly with biochar. The biochar provides a habitat for the bokashi microbes and supports the development of the beneficial microbes. The bokashi fermentation process is indeed anaerobic, however the bokashi microbes survive and thrive in both aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
      Happy composting

  7. HI, I just got the composter, and I am super excited. In the direction sent from you guys say that bokashi tea will accumulate after the bin is full. So does it mean that I do not touch the spigot until the bin is full. Correct? The way it was explained above sounds like we can start getting the bokashi tea as we put food in the composter. I just wanted to double check which is correct since this is my first try, and I didn’t want to mess it up.

    1. Thanks for the question. Yes, bokashi tea can start being produced before the bin is completely full. It really depends on how wet/dry the material is that you are putting in the bin and how quickly you are filling your bin. Sometimes you can start getting small amounts of bokashi tea as soon as 3 or 4 days from starting to fill your bin. Sorry for any ambiguity and thanks for asking. Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Is bokashi juice suitable for flowering perennials in the garden? Is it possible to know what the N-P-K proportions are if there is only vegetable waste in the bokashi bin?

    1. The N-P-K values will vary depending on what food waste was put into the bokashi bucket. But the power in the bokashi tea comes from the microbes (rather than the N-P-K). The bokashi microbes are hugely beneficial to your soil and garden. These microbes form the critical foundation to the soil food web. These microbes form a symbiotic relationship with your plant roots to release nutrients and microbes that are otherwise inaccessible to the plant roots.

  9. Can you use the Bokashi tea to put in with new food scraps – instead of buying the sawdust/spray that has the microbes in? Also does the sawdust expire, or does it always contain the microbes?

    1. Hi, Thanks for the questions. We do not recommend using the bokashi tea in place of the bokashi bran. The bokashi bran contains the ideal EM mother culture. 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.

      When the bokashi bran is stored correctly (at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and in an airtight container) it has a shelf life of up to 2 years.

      Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I must have thrown away my strainer in my because she tub and now I need a new one. Would it be possible to purchase just the strainer in the bottom of the bucket?

    1. Oh no ๐Ÿ™ Yes, we do sell replacement drain plates. Go to our online shop and select ‘replacement parts’.

  11. Hi, I’m trying bokashi for the first time, and although it looks and smells good when you open the lid (white mould, fruity acidic smell), the bokashi tea doesn’t smell good. It smells good at first, but the more I drain, the worse it smells (it basically smells like rotting cheese or vomit). I’m draining it every day. It’s hot here (we’ve had a stretch of around or above 30 degree Celsius days), but I’m keeping it in a dark shed on my balcony so it’s not in direct sunlight.

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

    1. Thanks for your question. The foul smelling tea is usually associated with the bucket getting too wet as the tea is not being drained enough. However, draining the tea every day should avoid this. It could be that some liquids are staying in the lower layers of the fermenting food waste. Try pressing firmly on the top of the food waste to squeeze out all of the liquid. Also make sure to tip your bucket when you are draining the tea so that you completely empty the reservoir.

      Hope that helps. Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I’ve been getting tea for about two weeks now. I have poured undiluted tea directly on a small weed about 6 times with sunny days and nothing seems to be happening at all. The weed is perfectly happy and still growing strong. So, what’s the deal?

  13. I am storing the tea in sealed containers – glass jars – no smell at all. And these have been standing for weeks – as I mostly soil feed – and use on drains. If I dilute 1:100 it seems to be very weak ? on your promotional material you have both 1:300 and 1: 100 – I am confused. Plus should one not factor in your soil ph in deciding?
    When using as a drain cleaner/shower/basin cleaner – should you let it stand of should you immediately wash it away?

    1. Hi Peter,
      Thanks for the question. The bokashi tea is acidic and the need to dilute to at least 1:100 is to ensure that you don’t burn your plants with the acidity. Remember, the main value in the bokashi tea is in the beneficial bokashi microbes. We recommend diluting to at least 1:100, and more dilute for more sensitive plants.
      If you are using to clear drains, we recommend leaving it to stand for at least a couple of hours. Again, it is the microbes in the tea that help to unblock the drains (as well as the acidity of the liquid) so these need time to work.
      Happy composting

  14. I have heard that if you store lechate from your compost bin in a tight container, it will be fermented very well and can be used as a liquid fertilizer as an when required. Is thus true. According to your article, it should be used immediately after removing from the bin. I am a bit confused. This is done only when you mix your compost with water, allow it to settle and then remove the liquid ( called compost tea)to be used as fertilizer immediately. What is the right answer?

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for the question. It is the beneficial microbes in the bokashi tea that make the liquid so valuable. Once the liquid is collected, the microbe population will start to decrease. Some bokashi composters choose to keep their tea in the fridge and/or add additional sugars to the tea to keep the microbes healthy for longer. We recommend using the bokashi tea as soon as possible after it has been collected to ensure that the microbes are as healthy and numerous as possible. If you continuously bokashi compost, most people find that they have plenty of fresh bokashi tea available.
      Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Hi – can I dig the Bokashi solid waste directly into flower / plant beds, or does it need to be dug into a hole and left for 2 weeks before I can add it to plant beds? I don’t have a compost heap.

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the question. The food waste needs to be left in the bokashi bucket for at least 2 weeks to fully ferment. After that, the bokashi pre-compost can be dug directly in to the soil. If you want to add it directly to your flower and plant beds, then you can dig multiple holes to bury the bokashi pre-compost. Make sure that the pre-compost does not come in contact with plant roots as it is acidic at first and can damage the delicate roots.

      This method works well if you do not have a large enough area of bare soil to bury all of the bokashi pre-compost together. Or maybe you have lots of different plants and areas of the garden that you want to feed with the bokashi pre-compost.

      Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Is there a general color or scent rule when it comes to the tea produced by the bucket? I mean, I understand the color rule regarding the potential molds growing (white is good, all others bad), and the scent being closer to vinegar than to trash, but how about the tea itself? Is it also a sign things have gone south if the tea comes out dark/blackish and/or smelling not so vinegar-y anymore and more like trash?

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the questions. The bokashi tea should smell sweet and pickly. If you don’t drain the tea frequently enough, it may develop a putrid odor. A foul smelling tea is not necessarily a sign that the bokashi has failed, more likely that the tea has been left in the bucket for too long.

      The color of the bokashi tea is not associated to the success of the bokashi composting. The colour of the tea varies depending on the contents of the bokashi bucket and can vary from a fairly pale yellow to a dark brown (or bright pink if you’ve added beetroot!)

      Happy composting ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Hi! Thanks for the great contents. Sadly I don’t have that many plants or drains in the household to get rid of the tea as quickly as I would want to – can I use it as EM for the fermentation process? Thank you very much!

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the question. The EM is a specially designed mother culture and unfortunately the mix of microbes in the bokashi tea will have diverged from this ideal mixture. As such, the bokashi tea cannot be used as a replacement for the EM and/or bokashi bran. If you have excess tea, just keep pouring it down the drain. You can’t add too much to your drains ๐Ÿ™‚

      Happy composting

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