Category: advice

A customer enquiry from….

By , 16 January 2008 21:00

…New Zealand! That is the first outside of North America and the farthest away to date. It will be hard to beat.

As much as I would like to claim being a global business [I do have a few clients in the U.S.A.], I explained that the cost of shipping and carbon footprint would be to high and bokashi products are already available in New Zealand.

I feel like Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th St“. Yes, you can buy it from me but the store across the street has it cheaper.

Apartment composting with bokashi

By , 4 January 2008 08:33

Was Where to put it.

from email:

From: Rob [name changed]

Received: 1/3/2008 2:49:11 PM
Subject: Where to put it.

Hi Al,

I found your website and your info on bokashi very helpful, thank you. I’m
in an apartment in **** and would like to start using bokashi.

My main concern is what to do with it once its done “pickling”. I was
thinking of getting a large plastic container, placing it on my patio and
filling it partially with dirt and then put the pickled food in there. Would
this work?

I was also wondering have you ever found anything that should not be put
in the bucket? From what I can gather pretty much anything that is organic
can be placed in it.

From: “Al Pasternak”
To: Rob
Subject: RE: Where to put it.

Hello Rob,

Thanks for your email.

You are on the right track by mixing dirt in containers on your patio.

Here’s a link from a site in England that is doing the same thing using planters:

Laying a plastic bag/sheet on the top of the dirt in the bucket will work if your buckets are to big.

Citrus juices, milk and oil are best left out of the bucket. They won’t pickle. Hard cheeses are okay.

Hope this helps.



Judith and office composting

By , 18 July 2007 01:44

Judith heard about me from her webmaster and was very excited to get her office/school and home [and office manager Annabella] started on bokashi composting.

Judith @ CSNN - 13Jul07

In addition, she wants to make the green space available to her more functional. They already have a compost bin but stuck in the corner with a holly tree in the way, it is not the most accessible.

CSNN - CompostBin

With two classrooms sharing the common area, the best idea is to move the compost bin into the center.

CSNN - Garden1

They are going to do a major renovation

CSNN - 18Jul07

and they have hired J to help them do the work.
Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Email Q & A about Bokashi composting

By , 6 June 2007 22:40

—– Original Message —–
From: Sue [not her real name]
To: A. A. Pasternak
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2007 8:19 AM
Subject: Re: Bokashi

Hi Al! Thanks so much for getting back to me. I’m interested in composting, and some searching on the internet led me to your website. Bokashi seems like a good option, but I have a couple questions:

Sue: Does the mass of the food waste reduce at all?

Al: No, it pickles. The bokashi acts as a inoculant that ferments the organic matter. When the bucket is full, the food waste at the bottom will look the same as when it went in, but the chemical structure will have changed completely. It is only later, when the fermented kitchen waste is dumped into the ground, which is far more aerobic, where there are many other wild
non-fermenting microbes present, that true composting will begin, and in that role the bokashi will assist primarily in making the composting process more efficient, in producing higher-quality end product, and in reducing levels of pathogenic microbes.

Sue: What if the compost bucket gets contaminated? (like with black mold,etc)

Al: In most cases this would not happen but if it does, you bury the bad batch, wash the bucket well and start again. Usually a bad batch is a result of not adding enough bokashi and/or to much moisture in the organic matter for the friendly microbes to eat fast enough. [Not in original email: A white fuzzy mold is ok]

Sue: Can you make your own Bokashi? How long will it keep?

Al: Yes. If you make it in a small batch you can use it after a month and it will keep 2 – 3 months. If you want to keep it longer [two years], it is best to dry it.

I use Biosa as my bokashi starter. Here is a link to the recipe I use: I can provide you with the starter liquid. You can even use the liquid alone.

Sue: And, most importantly, what do I do with the Bokashi?? That last question is why I called. See, I live in Chicago on the third floor of a walk-up. We have no yard, no balcony. I have the fire escape landing – which i could put a small bucket on, but no room for a compost pile.

Al: Here is a link that shows you how to make a small urban compost bin:

Sue: I do live very close to a public park, however. I guess that’s really my main concern. I live with three other people, and we all cook a lot, producing a lot of food waste. We also cook a lot of meat. However, if we don’t have an obvious place to put the Bokashi, and it doesn’t actually reduce the volume of food, then maybe this isn’t for us? I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not totally sure what the point of Bokashi is, if you just have to compost it anyway…*

Al: Anything to reduce sending food waste to the landfill is a good thing:

Bokashi helps stop the bad smells from normal composting, allows people to do it indoors, stops the fruit flies from coming, speeds up the final composting process and produces a better finished product.

Of course I’d be happy to supply all that you need to start bokashi composting and/or connect you with local [U.S.A] suppliers if you choose to go that route. Keep me informed of what you end up doing in your household.

Regards and be well,


Al Pasternak

Biosa[tm] Bokashi Composting
++indoor, odour free & more
Read my blog

*In my original email, I did not respond to this well enough. When I speak with people who ask the same question, I often suggest that people take their full bokashi bucket compost and dig it into the ground in a park or find a local community garden and put it in the compost bins there. As Sue was already thinking about doing that I did not encourage her, but attempted to address her other concerns.

I want people who live in cities to compost their food waste. Bokashi makes it easier for that to happen but people do not have to buy my product [and save the world] if other options are available.

A DIY bokashi bucket

By , 19 April 2007 12:29

I share information about bokashi composting to remove the confusion and mystery about it. You have your own buckets to collect the compost? No problem. You can buy only the bokashi. If you want to be adventurous, you can make your own bokashi, but I’m just as happy selling it too.

Same thing with the buckets. There are commercial systems available but home made solutions ones work too.

Jay Summet shows how he made a bokashi bucket with

[a cat litter container], a $5 Coleman igloo spout, and some laser cut 1/8 inch acrylic left over from a picture frame.

Important note: Not all buckets come with “pre-existing plastic strengthening tabs in the bottom of the cat litter container” so you will need another method of raising the acrylic above the bottom of the bucket.

The other One solution is to have two nesting buckets, with holes drilled into the top [inside] bucket, so the liquid drains into the second, as mine do.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

How to make and use Biosa bokashi in large quantities.

By , 25 March 2007 21:15

Edited from an email sent to a customer:

There are a number of options available:

1) Mix the Biosa, molasses and water with bran using this recipe*. Let it ferment in a warm place for a few weeks then dry. 1L of Biosa, molasses and water will make 160Kg/350lb of bokashi. 1Kg of dried bokashi can last 8 – 16 weeks, so it encourages use for composting household waste indoors [even during the winter.:-)]. It can also be used in larger settings such as school/community center lunch rooms and as a kitty litter deodorizer.

2) Mix the Biosa with molasses and water. This creates an Activated Biosa that can be diluted as low as 2%. 1L of Biosa will make 34L Activated. At a 2% solution, this is enough to use with 1700L with water. There is a limited shelf life to this product, 2 – 4 weeks, but it would be the best solution for dealing with a lot of post-consumer waste. You don’t have to make it all at once. Smaller quantities – as little as 500ml – make it accessible for use in restaurants, cafeterias etc. It can also work as an odour control agent; if you know what the smell of a fat rendering collection truck is like during the summer, this would be a big help if they washed their trucks with it.

*includes link to a list of suppliers all over the world, including me.

On this site, you can order here.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

An unpublished comment

By , 12 March 2007 22:20

Jessica asked for some advice on her blog about apartment composting

My comment/response written March 8, 2007 remains in moderation:

Hi Jessica,

From You Grow Girl:
Make this budget conscious compost bin for your deck or small outdoor space.

For your counter-top composter, I recommend a bokashi system as seen on Treehugger:

[Full disclosure: I make and sell my own bokashi bucket system. Happy to answer any questions you may have.]

Be Well,


I used “tinyurl” to keep the comment looking clean, but did not make them clickable in the original comment.

Response to preralphelitepunk

By , 19 February 2007 09:38


Anyone have experience with bokashi composting? I want to compost food scraps, but living in a flat without a balcony really limits my options. (The opening line in the ad copy is kind of gross. I assume it also works on veg.)

My reply

[Full disclosure: I make and sell my own bokashi composting systems.]

It works. You do not have to invest in the commercial version. You can use the fermentation liquid on its own in your own bucket.

People are impressed with the product…

Response to Ben about making your own EM

By , 4 February 2007 09:04

Added 12 April 2007: The lactic acid cultures provided by various companies around the world are a combination of bacteria that work together. The information provided in this post refers to only one of the seven bacterial cultures
contained in Biosa and similar products. The results you get from making your own lactic acid culture may differ greatly from what you have read here and elsewhere. On this site, you can get order information here. Comments welcome.

Update: [Added additional lines indicated by italics.]

Ben you ask a good question:

Thanks to your reply I understand how to make the bokashi but I am still wondering whether or not it is possible to make EM without purchasing the original first.

I had the same question, Ben. Biosa™, EM and all similar products can be compared to homebrew kits. You can buy all the equipment & ingredients for making wine or beer separately and experiment on your own with mixed, and sometimes toxic, results. But if you buy a kit and follow the instructions, you have a fair chance of making a perfect beverage all the time.

Dr. Higa’s formulations, while not public domain, are made from naturally occurring elements.

I found three information sites that may be helpful in answering your question:

[Unedited from the original]

Beneficial Indigenous Organisms (BIM)

Lactic acid bacteria is also known to produce enzymes and natural antibiotics aiding effective digestion and has antibacterial properties, including control of salmonella and e. coli. To farmers, what are observed are the general health of the plants and animals, better nutrient assimilation, feed conversion and certain toxins eliminations.

Here’s a simple method of collecting this type of microorganism. Lactic acid bacteria can be collected from the air. Pour rice wash (solution generated when you wash the rice with water) on a container like plastic pot with lid. Allow air gap at least 50-75% of the container. The key here is the air space. Cover the (not vacuum tight, allowing air still to move into the container) container with lid loosely. Put the container in a quiet area with no direct sunlight. Allow the rice was to ferment for at least 5-7 days. Lactic acid bacteria will gather in 5-7 days when temperature is 20-25 degrees C. Rice bran will be separated and float in the liquid, like a thin film, smelling sour. Strain and simply get the liquid. Put this liquid in a bigger container and pour ten parts milk. The original liquid has been infected with different type of microbes including lacto bacilli. And in order to get the pure lacto bacilli, saturation of milk will eliminate the other microorganisms and the pure lacto bacilli will be left. You may use skim or powdered milk, although fresh milk is best. In 5-7 days, carbohydrate, protein and fat will float leaving yellow liquid (serum), which contain the lactic acid bacteria. You can dispose the coagulated carbohydrate, protein and fat, add them to your compost pile or feed them to your animals. The pure lactic acid bacteria serum can be stored in the refrigerator or simply add equal amount of crude sugar (dilute with 1/3 water) or molasses. Do not use refined sugar as they are chemically bleached and may affect the lactic acid bacteria. The sugar or molasses will keep the lactic acid bacteria alive at room temperature. One to one ratio is suggested although sugar, regardless of quantity is meant simply, serving as food for the bacteria to keep them alive. Now, these lactic acid bacteria serum with sugar or molasses will be your pure culture. To use, you can dilute this pure culture with 20 parts water. Make sure water is not chemically treated with, like chlorine. Remember, we are dealing with live microorganisms and chlorine can kill them. This diluted form 1:20 ratio will be your basic lactic acid bacteria concoction. [this is the same recommended dilution ratio [.doc file] with Biosa/EM-1 etc. – Al] Two to four tablespoons added to water of one gallon can be used as your basic spray and can be added to water and feeds of animals. For bigger animals, the 2-4 tablespoons of this diluted lactic acid bacteria serum should be used without diluting it further with water. Lactic acid bacteria serum can be applied to plant leaves to fortify phyllosphere microbes, to soil and compost. Of course, it will help improve digestion and nutrient assimilation for animals and other applications mentioned before. For any kind of imbalance, be it in the soil or digestive system, lacto bacilli can be of help.

Yikes! Wouldn’t you rather just pour it out of a bottle? The article continues:

One of the popular beneficial microorganism innoculants from Japan (EM) contains lactic acid bacteria as its major component, including photosynthetic bacteria, yeasts, actinomycetes and fermenting fungi. These are pure culture imported from Japan and can be subcultured through the use of sugar or molasses. These other microbes can be cultured in several ways by farmers themselves.

There is a lot more. Read it all….

The good thing about a pre-packaged product is that you can make smaller batches successfully. 250ml of Biosa/EM with 250ml of molasses and 12L of water will make 40Kg/100lbs of bokashi. Another advantage is that it has a guaranteed shelf life – at most 1 year – which you can’t be certain of with the lactic acid you make on your own.

It is a lot simpler than what they do in Latin America:

[Unedited from the original]

Tue, 31 Oct 2000 17:23:15 -0600
Reply-To: Sustainable Agriculture Network Discussion Group
Subject: Bocashi

SEveral people have asked me about bocashi, the japanese ‘biofermented’
compost. Here is a recipe we use. Rapidly translated from Spanish so
pardon the spanglish.

This fertilizer has been tried by many Mexican and other Latin American Farmers. In each place the ingredientes vary, the result of trial and error and local knowledge.


To prepare 200 kg (about 12 gunny sacks) of bocashi

v 5 sacks of manure
v 5 sacks of rice hulls or 4 bails of oat or barley straw.
v 5 sacks local soil, without clods or rocks
v 1 sack charcoal dust or small pieces (this can be made from corn husks,
v 10 kg rice polishings, wheat bran or pig feed.
v 10 kg of agricultural lime
v 1 lbs bread yeast.
v 4 liters of molasses
v 200 liters water


Gather to appropiate quantity of ingredients in an area that is protected from sun and rain, near a water source. Otherwise the prepared fertilizer should be covered with a large sheet of plastic or equivalent. A cement floor is good.

1. The ingredients are layered in the following order: rice hulls, soil,manure, charcoal, bran, lime.

2,- Se coloca por capas los ingredientes en el siguiente orden:cascarilla de arroz o paja, tierra, estiércol, carbón, pulidora de arroz o salvado o concentrado, cal.

3. – The molasses and yeast is mixed with (luke warm) water and then added to the water to be used.

4 – The water mix should be applied uniformly as the pile is made. NO FURTHER WATER SHOULD BE ADDED.

The ‘fist test’ for the right amount of humidity: firmly squeeze a handful of bocachi. When released it should stay in a ball that falls apart easily. If it falls apart water is lacking, if water drips out, its too wet. Too much water is corrected by adding more dry matter.

5. We recommend turning the heap at least 2 or 3 times so that it is uniformly mixed.

6, Once mixed, it should be extended in a pile about 50cms high.

7. Cover with sacks or a plastic tarp.

During the first three days the fermentation is intense and temperature can reach above 80º C, which should not be permitted. Try and keep temperatures below 50º C by turning the heap twice a day, morning and evening.

As it heats up over the first three days it is a good idea to extend the heap more to a height of around 20 cms. After about 4 days, one turning per day is sufficient. Between 12 and 15 days (depending on climate and specific ingredientes) the compost should be ready. It will be at ambient temperature and will be copletely dry, gray in color with a sandy consistency. It has a pleasant smell (like a Japanese nursery).

Bocashi has many uses. Aged, (2-3 months) and sifted (with the charcoal pulverised) mixed with 60 to 90% loam, it is used in seed boxes. A small handful can be placed in the hole and covered with a little soil for transplanting vegetables. It can be applied in a band during the growing
phase. For corn, a motoroil can spread in a circle around each hill, just before flowering- etc.

See also:
Microbial Fertilizers in Japan

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bokashi assistance requested, response given

By , 1 February 2007 13:11

Found this on Technorati search for bokashi:

» EM Bokashi

I still haven’t found much more on how to make EM bokashi or anything further on EM ceramics. It seems to me that EM bokashi is just some kind of patented brand name that is getting someone rich. Well if anyone knows how to make it or where one can find the information to make it it would be much appreciated…..

My reply:

A recipe is here:

The distributors are here:


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Panorama Theme by Themocracy