04. Two weeks to ferment

Following on from: Keeping it dry with paper

Step two:

Next step is an easy one! Just leave the bucket in peace and quiet to ferment for two weeks. There’s a good reason for this, read on and I’ll explain.

So, once the bucket is full, the microbes need to do their work, multiply in numbers and prepare the food waste for becoming soil. This is an invisible process, to us, but there’s a lot going on we’re not able to see.

Basically, the bacteria and fungus in the bokashi bran come to life when they land in this paradise of food and moisture.

They reproduce (possibly as fast as every 20 minutes) and work their way through the proteins in their path, breaking them down into their component parts: amino acids and the like, and produce various enzymes etc. which are the building blocks that make nutrients available to plants in the future soil.

But all you have to worry about is putting the bucket somewhere warm (room temperature) and out of the way for a couple of weeks.

No need to open and close it during this time. Have a look, by all means, but the less oxygen that gets into the process the better.

If you have a bucket with a tap, your bucket will most likely need draining off during this time.

There’s no standard rule for this, it will all depend on what type of food waste you have and how wet it is, to some extent also to how well you’ve packed the bucket. Some buckets are profuse, producing up to a liter of bokashi juice, while others are more or less dry.

Summer buckets tend to produce more liquid, winter buckets less; this is often due to the types of foods we eat (and throw out) in the different seasons. There’s a big difference between summer’s watermelon and lettuce and winter’s pumpkin and mashed potatoes.

Anyway, keep an eye on the bokashi liquid but otherwise there’s nothing to do.

In the meantime, start filling your second bucket in the kitchen, just as you did this one.

How many buckets do you need?

Every household is different, but you’ll always need at least two. If you’re producing more than a liter of food waste per day you’ll probably need three, or even four. But start with two and see how it goes.

Why two?

Because while you’re filling one bucket, you’ll always have another bucket fermenting. The two weeks of fermentation after the bucket is filled can’t be avoided, it’s part of the process.

You could of course empty the contents over to some other form of airtight container, but the reality is that most people want an easy life. And two buckets (or more for a bigger or more prolific family) are the most convenient option.

In some warmer countries the guideline is often a one week fermentation. As I live in a colder country, where room temperature is usually around 20 degrees, two weeks is the norm for us. Because microbes work more quickly in a warmer climate, one week may is usually fine if you live in the tropics. If in doubt, go for two.

Another variable is how long it takes you to fill the bucket.

If you fill it quickly (a big day making preserves or soup for example), you will absolutely need the full two weeks.

If it takes you a few weeks to fill a bucket, or you’ve been away and left an almost-full bucket, you can probably shorten up the two week fermentation period. After all, the microbes have already had plenty of time to get started on their work.

Like most things with bokashi, the rules are not that hard and fast, there’s a lot of common sense involved, finding what works best for you and doing it that way.

Next up: Making soil out of your bokashi

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