What is bokashi?

Bokashi is a great way of making rich, living soil out of everyday food waste. There are other types of bokashi used in other applications auch as agriculture, it’s a broad concept. But it always involves EM microbes, fermentation and organic material.

Our focus here on this blog is on food and organic waste from households, restaurants and markets.

When this type of organic material is layered with EM bokashi bran in an airtight bucket or barrel it ferments in a couple of weeks. There are no issues with smell or hygiene and you can do this indoors if you wish.

The fermented material is then dug down straight into the ground or a planting container where it is rapidly transformed into soil.

Ideal for planting, or for later use as a humus-rich organic fertiliser.

The truly valuable thing is that every bucket of bokashi you dig down helps to build carbon in the soil, and make it far more alive and productive. All good things for your garden here and now, and for the future of the planet.

5 thoughts on “What is bokashi?

  1. I found your blog while researching a paper for my organic gardening course. I’m looking forward to starting a Bokashi compost and am enjoying your posts immensely! Bokashi composting is going to be a huge help to my gardening, especially since winter can last such a long time in the foothills of the Rockies. Many thanks for your work!

    Jen Norfolk
    Calgary, Canada

    1. From one Jen to another, thank you! Great this stuff could come in handy. I’m a bit embarrased as there’s so much more I want to be writing about and I’m just not getting onto it, but aiming to be a bit more active on this front from here on. You found the facebook page too? (bokashiworld), there’s a lot of good links there, especially on soil carbon. My favourite rant and rave topic😉. Good luck with it all! /Jenny

  2. Jenny, I hope you can enlighten me on EM. As I understand it, the original set of micro-organisms has been whittled down to three: lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus casei), photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodopseudomonas palustris), and brewer’s/baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).

    I understand the lactic acid bacteria, in fact I’ve studied what they do in bokashi. They convert some carbohydrate to lactic acid; this in turn denatures or breaks down everything else to the point at which soil creatures can eat it; the acid kiils virtually all pathogens and even stops the fermentation; and finally when exposed to air (e.g. by bokashi being turned into soil) the acid oxidises to pyruvate, a chemical fundamental to most life on Earth in that it carries energy to cells – and so presumably acts like a dinner bell in the soil 🙂

    But I really don’t get what the other two do. Being as specific as I have just been, what do they use, what to they turn it into, and how does this benefit the soil ecosystem?

    1. I asked our EM biologist in Sweden (Jan Röed) for his comments on this. His reply:

      EM is a microbial consortia, a group of microbes that co-operate. The different groups produces a vast number of bioactive compounds which the other groups can utilize and benefit from. In short; it’s like a team and the co-operation is crucial. Only the yeast produces over 2000 bioactive compounds:


      The phototrophic bacteria are central in EM. They both fix nitrogen and CO2, hence charging the soil with the most important macro nutrient and energy. More N and more energy boost the the fundamental base
      in the soil ecosystem, the soil microbiome, and the soil biomass grows. As with the yeast; they produce many important compounds, e.g enzymes that break down cellulose & lignin, vitamins and more.


      There are many good papers on the net about these microbes. Co-operation between the groups and with other important PGPR microbes is the key. Here is a good paper:



      Plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) are soil bacteria that are able to colonize rhizosphere and to enhance
      plant growth by means of a wide variety of mechanisms like organic matter mineralization, biological control against soil-borne pathogens, biological nitrogen fixation, and root growth promotion…..

      1. Thanks for trying Jenny, but oh dear, that’s not exactly as clear as I hoped, to say the least.

        The words and the links appear to be talking only about what happens in the soil. I am interested in what happens in the bokashi bucket, apart from the Lactobacilli. At present the answer seems to be nothing else. If that’s wrong, an explanation of the bucket biology in plainer words is needed – perhaps after future research.

        One might contend that the other organisms are waiting to be dug into soil, but one would have to account for how they survive lactic acid in a concentration strong enough to cease the fermentation itself and kill pathogens. I recall one report suggesting that the tested ferment was totally pathogen-free, and that’s a great selling point. Lactic acid 2.02% is the active ingredient in my “99.99% germkill” household toilet cleaner!

        It seems to me that the other organisms may be present only for other uses of EM.

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