Winter Bokashi Update

Kombucha Bokashi

The traditional way of making bokashi is to combine one tablespoon of essential  microorganisms with one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in a cup of non-chlorinated water.  This solution is then mixed with one pound of wheat bran and allowed to ferment for two weeks in a sealed container.  After two weeks, the wheat bran is dried and then can be sprinkled onto each addition of garbage in the bokashi bucket.  By sprinkling fermented wheat bran onto garbage, the garbage also ferments.

There are many variations on this recipe including making your own essential microorganisms using rice (traditional), barley, rye (all of which I have attempted successfully), and probably other grains.  Another variation is use media other than wheat bran.  I have also used straw and newspaper, others wood chips and sawdust.

I have settled on newspapers to ferment because I subscribe to the Peoria Journal-Star daily.  I also use newspaper for bedding in my worm bins.  If you are not confused enough yet, I brew kombucha tea and re-ferment it with molasses and vermipost (worm castings).  This is what I am currently using to ferment newspapers.


In my last post, I stated that my bokashi bucket was about 3/4 full and working well using the newspapers fermented with kombucha tea.  I read about three things that allowed that bucket to fill up quickly.  It is now aging and will be ready to use in 6 more days.

I decided to stop by a local Starbucks last week and asked about free coffee grounds.  They did not have any 2 kilo bags, but they gave me all that they had so far that day – 30 POUNDS. I began adding it to my garbage to make up 1/2 inch layers, and the bucket was soon filled.  I, then began adding coffee to a second bucket.

I went back to the same Starbucks a few days later and again asked for coffee grounds, 20 pounds this time.  Then I pondered whether my bounty of coffee grounds should be fermented and used on other garbage, like Maricybele’s bokaffee,  …or could it be the garbage itself???

I decided that it could be either, so I took the 20 pound plastic bag and added about a gallon of kombucha tea/molasses/vermipost mixture, mixed it up well, and tied a knot in the bag to make it airtight.  I now have 3 batches of bokashi working.  What am I going to do with all of this!!??



About reluctantretiree

recent last-minute retiree, husband, father, grandfather, student, technology nerd, fabricator, builder, etc., trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.
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15 Responses to Winter Bokashi Update

  1. Well if you don’t have any garden, you should give it your family members that have one or to your community residents. I’m sure if you explain a little bit what it is, they would be pleased to have it!



    • Sorry! I guess that was a rhetorical question. I do have a garden, but it is covered in snow and the ground is frozen. I will take my finished bokashi outside and put some in my bags of leaf mold from last fall. The rest I will feed to the worm bins. I do like the idea of doing bokashi, if only to save garbage from the landfill. Thanks for the comment!



  2. pobept says:

    I’m not sure exactly what you are doing with your eatable garbage. Not having a problem with kitchen waste, I feed it to my chickens or my daughters 2 pigs. It’s sounds like a process that would be a real hands on project.

    I think I will follow your progress for a while and learn a bit more about what your doing and how well it works your in your garden.


    • I am currently feeding my fermented garbage to my worms and burying some in bags of leaf mold. When it warms up, I will bury some in my garden and in my compost heap. Unfortunately, I have no chickens or pigs, since I live in the city. If I threw my my meat and dairy waste, and other food with fat on the ground, it would spoil or attract vermin like rats. Bokashi can be, and is done by apartment dwellers. Thanks for the comment.


      • LunaWolfe says:

        I would like to try bokashi as a way to get rid of all my kitchen scraps. I would also like to set up a worm bin and feed it the bokashi. I have read that the bokashi is acidic and the worms don’t like acidic enviroments. How would I manage that? Also any advise you can provide on making homemade EM and bran substitute would be appreciated. I have greater access to cardboard than newspaper, and I have Kefir grains, instead of Kombucha, if they are still alive :-).


      • Congratulations on giving bokashi a try! The worms love bokashi. I think moderation is the key (one or two handfuls at a time per bin). Bury it in the bedding. It may even heat up like a compost heap, but eventually the worms will flock to it. Homemade EM? I have used washes of rice, barley, and rye, along with re-fermenting kombucha tea with molasses and worm castings. Others have used kefir grains or yogurt. I have purchased bottles of kefir at the grocery store and added it to my kombucha tea re-mix in order to obtain a diversity of microorganisms. Cardboard should work fine as both worm bedding and as a fermented medium to ferment your garbage in your bokashi bucket. Use plain water to dampen the worm bedding, rather than kefir. As you say, it is too acidic until it has broken down further. Good luck!


  3. Aschwin Wesselius says:

    Please, can you provide me with some more details? I’m new to this whole bokashi to ferment waste to compost. I do understand the process, but I’m now onto the best practices bit.

    I do have kombucha, so that would make it a lot easier if I would be able to use that as a starter to create bokashi from bran, rice, whatever. It would be heaps of fun to drink the kombucha together with using it to make my garden a bit more happy.

    What do you mean with re-ferment? Is it just enough to have a media (bran, newspaper) put a bit of kombucha on it, a spoon of molasses and some water, just like the normal process? Or do I have to do something additional to make it work?

    Thanks for this information!


    • Hi,
      When I am talking about fermenting kombucha tea, I mean that I am fermenting brewed tea and sugar aerobically in a sterilized container with a SCOBY. After 7-10 days, I bottle some and let it stand in a warm place for a couple of days before putting it in the refrigerator to chill annd drink. I use a cup or so to help start my next batch.

      I then pour about 8 ounces in an empty one-gallon plastic milk or tea jug, add an ounce of molasses, and a few ounces of worm castings, fill with water, cap tightly, and leave in a warm place for about a week. Other people add a handful of rich dirt. This is the secondary fermentation that I referred to. Since I added worm castings, the brew is no longer drinkable. It can be diluted one more time, if desired. I use this re-fermented tea to innoculate my bokashi medium (usually newspapers or coffee grounds). I think that as long as the tea has active cultures, it can be used for bokashi.

      Happy fermenting!


  4. Aschwin Wesselius says:

    Many thanks for your reply, especially the second part of re-fermenting was the bit I was curious about.

    Does the worm castings also have cultures/organisms that are beneficial for the fermentation? Or is it just for making the compost more fertile? I mean, does it do something special to the kombucha?

    How can you be sure the molasses are used and finished after a week? The innoculation of the medium, does that just mean adding the tea on top of the medium or do you add another spoon of molasses and water? The first would be the most simple method, but does it work?


    • The worm castings or rich dirt are not at all necessary for making bokashi. But, since I feed finished bokashi to the worms (by far their favorite food!), I hope that I have accidentally introduced rhodobacters into the mix. I have no way to test. I just know that this works for making bokashi. I also do not know if the fermentation is done after a week. I usually add another teaspoon of molasses before inoculating my medium because I want a vigorous fermentation, i.e., I want the lactobacillus to be the predominant organism cultured, instead of the rotting organisms. You will know by the awful smell if your bokashi bucket goes bad! Now that cold weather has arrived in Illinois, I keep the kombucha tea brew bottle, the worm bins, and the bokashi bucket downstairs in my basement…and my wife tolerates it quite well! Good luck making bokashi!



  5. Great post! I have been stuck buying bottles one at a tie from a local natural store and its just too costly!


  6. katherin says:

    great blog. living in a place where i have no access to EM-1, i also cultured my own last year using a rice wash, in order to make a homemade fish emulsion and otherwise benefit the garden. i didn’t get as far as doing the bokashi. this year i acquired a scoby and water kefir grains and have started culturing both for drinking. i have 4 containers outside with incredibly stinky weed tea (i had so many weeds last fall and couldn’t bear to toss them but didn’t want to straight up compost them for fear of re-seeding weeds everywhere, so i filled containers and added water) and have been thinking i would like to ameliorate the smell and boost the nutritional quality by adding a ferment. i am culturing a bottle of fruit molasses (no blackstrap available here) with whey but it doesn’t seem to be doing much, so i started thinking i could use kombucha. i googled kombucha-bokashi and found your blog! on the one hand it’s too bad i never have an original thought, but on the other i can benefit from someone else’s experience!!
    i have a couple of questions – how do you culture your newspaper – in ziplocs? just any closed container? do you have to worry about getting all the air out? how long do you need to wait?
    second question, also anaerobically-oriented: the containers with the weed tea are not hermetically sealed but pretty tight (can’t smell the terrible smell without lifting the lids) — if i add a ferment do you think i need to seal them with tape or other means and then burp them to avoid explosion, or do you think fairly anaerobic is sufficient?
    thanks and keep up the great work!


    • Hi, Katherin
      I have no experience using whey, but I am surprised that your fruit molasses fermentation is not working. Perhaps it is not in the right temperature range? I had no luck brewing kombucha tea until I set my jar on top of my water heater. I use cane sugar for my bokashi that I drink, although I had to resort to using honey one time. It required a little extra ageing, but I liked the taste.

      When I culture my newspapers I re-ferment kombucha tea with molasses, worm castings (optional, “purple” dirt is desirable), and more water. I have used ziploc bags, but do not get the volume of newspapers that I need. I do my bokashi in five gallon (18.9 liter) buckets with snap-top lids (Do you have pickle buckets in Turkey?. They are approximately 14 inches (700 mm) tall. I try to use a sheet of newspaper for every 1/2 inch of garbage, so that comes to 28 sheets per bucketful. I accumulate newspaper until I have enough to stuff one of these buckets, pour in enough liquid to get all of the newspaper wet, snap the lid on, turn it upside down a few times to distribute the liquid, and leave it undisturbed for two weeks. You know it worked when you take off the sealed lid and there is a sour pickle smell. Obviously, all of the air is not removed, but it works. After two weeks the newspaper is ready to use. Wet newspaper exposed to the air will eventually spoil, so it is better to spread out the newspaper to dry, in order to halt the fermentation if you are using the “dry” bucket method of making bokashi. The moisture from the garbage will re-activate the organisms.

      Actually, any plastic bags (garbage bags) that can be sealed can be usedsealed to culture newspaper, or other organic matter. Straw will work for absorbent matter. I also collect spent coffe grounds from local coffee shops (Starbucks), pour the culture in, seal the bag up, and wait about two weeks.

      As to your second question, I do not know what can save your stinky weeds. Any type of fermentation is dependent on the beneficial organisms that you are trying to culture gaining a head start and growing so rapidly that the bacteria that rots organic matter is not allowed to develop. Stinky stuff will always be stinky stuff! I admire your spirit of adventure. Good luck!



      • katherin says:

        thanks so much for the rapid and thorough response, that’s great! yes i agree stinky will always be stinky…


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