Compost tea brewing time

How to Make Compost Tea

Best Location for Your Brewer:

  • Place your brewer on a flat and level surface located near a power outlet.
  • Choose a location that can tolerate a few spills.
    • Brewing compost and garden teas can be messy at times.
  • Provide a stable environment such as a basement, barn, garage or shaded location outdoors.
    • If possible choose a location that can maintain a temperature between 55°-80°F.


  • Always start with pure filtered water
  • Microbes in compost are highly sensitive to anti-microbial agents found in many municipal water sources.
    • Chlorine, fluoride, chloramine and fluoramine tare some of the potential additives in many municipal water sources.
  • If you have a municipal water source you can at the least evaporate as much chlorine as possible.
    • This can be achieved by allowing your water to sit in an uncovered bucket / brewer overnight or you can aerate your water for 15-30 min prior to use.
  • Chloramine & Fluoramine cannot be evaporated and are best removed thru filtration. Please note that not all filters are capable of removing these harmful chemical agents. Fresh, clean rainwater can be a great alternative to the tap.
    • Humic acids added to water (prior to your sensitive compost) will help to bind these agents and immobilize their harmful affects.
    • Good quality compost contains sufficient humic substances to assist in mitigating the harmful affects of the above-mentioned additives. More on this in the section on compost extracts.


  • The ideal temperature range for brewing compost tea is between 60° – 80°F
    • An aquarium heater can be used to maintain constant temps for more precision brewing and reduced brew times.
  • High temperatures can kill or limit a diversity of microbes.
  • Low temperatures will slow microbial activity and limit a diversity of microbial growth.
    • Do not to exceed a water temperature of 95°F
  • Brewing in a temperate environment is a pretty safe option
  • Match your water temperature to the temperature of the soil or leaf zone where the tea is to be applied.
    • The microbes that are cultivated in your compost or garden teas are more likely to remain active when applied to the soil or a leaf surface that is a similar temperature as your tea.

Ensuring A Quality Extraction:

In brewing compost teas we are attempting to transfer the multitudes of beneficial organisms and soluble nutrients from the compost into a solution that can be easily applied to soil, potting/ planting mixes and plant surfaces. The compost serves as a starter agent, much like yeast is to bread. Water is the medium and the food sources serve as a catalyst feeding active and dormant organisms present in the mature compost. Aerating and agitating the compost in good quality water and providing select food resources will help to promote the growth of the target organisms present in the compost.

Extraction & Brewing Methods:

I. Compost Extract:

Compost extracts can be made in minutes and applied immediately, making them very convenient if there is not enough time to brew aerated tea. Compost extracts will provide a similar concentration of the microbes found in your starter compost. You can use compost extracts as a soil drench, root dip when transplanting or to inoculate; compost heaps, potting and planting mixtures.

  • Fill your brewer with 4 – 5 gallons of chlorine free water or aerate municipal water as described above.
  • Place 2 – 4 cups of compost into a 400-micron filter bag
    • The filter bag will help to keep your brewer cleaner, but is not necessary if you are only stirring the compost in a bucket or barrel.
  • Place the compost bag into your vessel and aerate, gently massage or stir for 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Remove the filter bag and use as desired
    • Energize by stirring rhythmically, alternately clockwise and counter-clockwise forming a vortex for 1 min before changing directions.

Compost extracts can provide the necessary humic acids to help bind-up and immobilize the harmful affects of chemical agents found in some municipal water sources. If you are using a compost extract for the humic acids to help with your municipal water then follow these steps.

  1. Make a compost extract as mentioned above
  2. Remove the tea bag and discard the compost onto a compost heap or mix into soil.
  3. Use this liquid to brew a batch of aerated compost tea.

II. Aerated Compost Tea (ACT)

This method of brewing is also referred to as actively aerated compost tea (AACT) and will cultivate the greatest concentration of microbial life in your teas. ACT or AACT can be applied as a soil drench or a foliar spray.

  • Place the recommended amount of compost into a 400-micron filter bag
  • Place the compost bag into your bucket or barrel of chlorine free water and aerate
  • The compost bag can be removed after 12 – 24 hours
    • The bulk of beneficial organisms are now suspended in the water.
    • Do not squeeze or press the filter bag as you may force sediment thru the mesh that could clod your air-diffuser and/ or spray nozzles.
  • Add the recommended liquid or soluble foods sources
  • Brew your compost tea for the recommended minimum or maximum time and apply

III. Fertilizer / Garden Tea

Use this method for herbal, mineral or guano based fertilizer teas

Much like herbal teas, fertilizer tea can be made by soaking or aerating dried herbs, bat or seabird guano and/ or minerals such as rock powders or salts in chlorine free water to extract the many beneficial nutrients. Your options here are limitless.

  • Place the recommended amount of raw ingredients into a 100-micron filter bag or filter your tea after the ingredients have been mixed.
  • Place the bag or ingredients into a bucket or barrel of chlorine free water.
  • Stir for 10 min – 1 hour or steep and/ or aerate for up to 12 hours
  • The time your tea is allowed to steep will depend upon the ingredients used.
  • Use a PPM or TDS meter to measure the concentration of nutrients in your fertilizer teas (these can be purchased for under $20 at aquarium and some garden centers)
    • PPM meters measure the parts per million of a solution
    • TDS meters measure the total dissolved solids
  • The concentration of nutrients in your liquid tea will vary based upon ingredients used and your water source. Well water or rainwater may have more minerals than municipal water sources.
  • Remove the bag and apply tea as a soil drench
  • Do not squeeze or press the filter bag as you may force sediment thru the mesh that could stop up your air-diffuser and/ or spray nozzles.

What to do with the spent ingredients after making tea for your plants?

The spent compost, herbs, guano and/ or minerals can be added to a compost pile or worked into the top few inches of soil. The best parts of these ingredients have been depleted but the remnants will be a nice addition any compost pile.

Customize Your Compost Tea for Plant Types, Disease, or Pest

These are general guidelines; recipes may need to be adjusted according to active biology present in your compost.

  • All-purpose / Balanced Tea (equal Bacteria to Fungi biomass ratios):
    • This is the most effective tea for all types of plants and soils: Use on most vegetable crops, grasses and pastures, flower and herb gardens, berries, fruit trees or to manage some pest and pathogen outbreaks.
  • Fungi/ Humus Tea: Use on deciduous and conifer trees, orchards, vine crops shrubs, acid-loving plants, or to manage pathogen outbreaks. Fungi dominated teas can also be used to enhance the growth of moss.
  • Bacterial Tea: Use on brassica family crops or to help manage pests.

Brew Times:

  • Temperature of both water and the outside environment will affect your brewing time
    • When ambient air temperature is above 60°F brew for 12-24hrs
    • At temperatures below 60°F extend brew times generally 48-72 hours
  • All-purpose / Balanced Tea (equal Bacteria to Fungi biomass ratios): Brew for 12 – 36 hours to encourage a more balanced life within the compost tea.
  • Bacterial Teas: Brew for 12 – 24 hours to encourage bacterial biomass.
  • Fungi/ Humus Teas: brew for 36 – 48 to encourage a fungal biomass. After 48 hours compost tea begins to express protozoa dominance, which mainly feed on bacteria.

You may use the minimum brew times if you are starting with a few quarts of a good quality compost tea from a previous batch. Think of this like a bread starter.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Brewing:

by Josh Cunnings

#1) Do use LOTS of oxygen!

A powerful air pump yields a powerful brew. Period. The beneficial organisms in your tea simply crave oxygen. It is impossible to use too much. Harmful, pathogenic organisms thrive in an anaerobic, or low oxygen, environment. Good compost tea will effectively colonize soil with an abundant population of beneficial microbes, fungi, and protozoa when “fueled” with large amounts of oxygen for 4 to 18 hours first. Low-oxygen brews will always create more opportunities for pathogens to flourish. Don’t give them the chance to gain a foothold. We recommend an air pump with an output of 45liters of oxygen per minute or more. Your tea will also brew FASTER this way, offsetting any additional power usage.

#2) Do make quick use of your tea.

“Infuse it and use it”. Allowing fresh Boogie Brew to sit around and “peak” is all too easy a mistake and is counter-productive to effective soil colonization. To truly benefit from a good compost tea’s root zone enhancing qualities, it should be used immediately after brewing. Try not to let your tea stagnate for more than two hours: Take advantage of all that bio-activity & drive fresh life into your soil ASAP!

#3) Don’t use chlorinated water!

Unfortunately chlorine and chloramine compounds are used in almost all municipal water systems and thus the use of an effective filter is required for creating quality compost tea. This is due to chlorine’s functional elimination of all bacteria, including the beneficial organisms that are alive and well in high quality compost, worm castings and other “live” amendments found in good tea recipes. Do continue to use de-chlorinated water on soil previously inoculated with live teas. Otherwise you will wipe out most of the beneficial biology you just introduced into your soil. You wouldn’t use antibiotics after cultivating acidophilus in the intestine from high quality yoghurt cultures, would you? Use similar principles with compost tea for soil-success!

#4) Don’t forget to clean your brewer!

No matter how you infuse your Boogie Brew, it is imperative that you clean the container between brews. Otherwise there’s the risk of “bio-film” build-up and subsequent contamination. “Bio-film” is the layer of dead, organic material that is a natural result from the production of “exudates” from the billions of beneficial organisms flourishing in a healthy aerobic tea. As these organisms burst to life and begin to digest their food sources, (including the consumption of OTHER organisms), they “exude”, or give off, waste matter of their own. This exudate tends to collect wherever the billions of microbes living in a healthy tea are least active: i.e. the lining of your bucket or reservoir etc! If this layer of dead bio-film is not vigorously brushed clean between brews, it will contaminate and degrade the quality of new tea.

#5) Don’t mix synthetic fertilizers with your tea!

Ideally, infuse your soil with fresh tea only when you are applying your brew. Think of Boogie Brew as both a mild organic food source for your plants and at the same time a beneficial soil drench or biological “flush”. Some folks like to tinker with their teas and that is fine, as long as you don’t overdo it. Any sources of nutrition in your reservoir should be well-diluted and organic in nature. Don’t mess with success. Use natural ph adjusters if necessary, like citric acid/vit. C crystals, and apply to tea only AFTER brewing.

#6) Do practice good gardening!

That means sensible watering techniques, (don’t overwater!) as well as the intelligent use of organic fertilizers and non-toxic pest control whenever possible. Regard your plants and the soil they live in as a beautiful reflection of the symbiotic relationships of all living things. Modern science has shed much light on the intertwined and complex interactions that occur within a healthy soil-food-web, yet there is so much more that we still don’t fully understand. Respect those secrets and nurture your soil in the same manner you would revere the delicate balance and nature of life itself. Remember that compost tea’s miracles allow for far greater absorption and utilization of food/water sources. Be gentle. -Josh

Introduce healthy microbes to your soil, enhance yeild and quality of your vegetables. Brew compost tea and treat your garden to a well deserved tea party.

Compost tea is a dissolved, concentrated solution of nutrient-rich compost in water. You may overhear organic gardeners in our community talking about liquid gold – yup, that’s it! Follow our instructions on brewing and applying compost tea and treat your garden to this magical brew.

If the tea did not get enough oxygen or received too much food, anaerobes will have taken over, giving off a very unpleasant smell. If this happens, throw the tea out, and start over.

Apply tea to soil within four hours of removal from oxygen. Best results occur when tea is applied to moist soil once every one to two months. Also, one gallon should cover 1000 square feet of soil. Made too much brew? Share it with your neighbors!

  • Fill a large, 10- or 15-gallon bucket with non-chlorinated water between 55ºF and 80ºF. If all you have is tap water, simply fill bucket with tap water, and let it sit uncovered for at least 24 hours.
  • Place the air stone in the bucket, and attach the aquarium pump. Let water start to bubble.
  • Place inoculant in the foot of the stocking.
  • Tie off the open end of the stocking, and arrange it so that the foot is suspended in water. If you wish, tie the long end of the stocking around a stick and place the stick across the bucket opening.
  • Squeeze the stocking gently to release organisms into water.
  • Wait one hour; then add food.
  • Let your brew bubble for 24 – 36 hours.
  • If brew looks (and smells) good, remove the pump, and pour mixture through a strainer to remove debris.
  • Fill a water can with the tea, and apply to your garden!

DIY Compost Tea Brewer: How to make a compost tea brewer on a budget. (Under $50)

July 17, 2013 0 Comments

Update: We are always learning and have since found new information.

So you want to brew your own compost tea huh? Well I can’t blame you. This stuff is better than anything you can pay for and will all the misinformation surrounding compost tea it would be foolish to have anyone else make it for you.

BEWARE of the Myths

1. Worm juice leachate is the same stuff.

No – Worm leachate is anerobic and not even close.

2. You’re supposed to put guano and nutrients in the tea.

No – this is compost tea. Not nutrient tea. The Nutrients will ruin the development of your diverse tea.

3. I can just buy bottles of Compost tea or Worm tea on ebay or online…. Why make it?

Tea doesn’t last and as soon as you stop brewing it you should use it right away. Never bottle it.

4. The guys on youtube promise excellent compost tea with a small aquarium pump.

Please avoid listening to any of this information. The best tea is proven to be made with a dissolved oxygen level above 6.0 ppm and the small aquarium pump isn’t even close. You might even make a tea that could cause problems in your garden. If you have to use an aquarium pump with a cheap airstone then keep the brew to a 1-2 gallon size, maybe a milk jug.

5. It’s finished when all foamy and sweet smelling, right?

Now that you know about the myths, let’s get down to business.

The cheapest way to make a decent tea, without buying a microscope to verify, is to follow a proven recipe.

Here is a cheap method that will work just fine.

Purchase List:

1. 5 or 6 gallon food grade plastic bucket with lid. (Home Depot or Lowes $4.00 – $6.00)

Grower Pro Tip: You can get these for free at bakeries, restaurants etc.

2. High Quality Air Pump: EcoPlus Commercial Air pump #1 will work for up to 15 gallons. ($35.00)

3. SweetWater Glass Air Diffuser: Highest quality best air stone on the market. 6” (few bucks) Google them and you will find a store that carries a few sizes.

You want the barb to fit into your tubing. (Sweetwater Air Diffuser, 6″ L x 1.5″ W, 1/2″ NPT)

EDIT: The Above pump is rated at 1.34 CFM and the Sweetwater airstones are rated for specific cfm. Not only will this make the airstone produce larger airbubbles than normal, it will also produce back pressure on the pump and this will wear it out prematurely. This can hopefully be fixed by using 2-3 Airstones or purchasing a larger Airstone from sweetwater. Feel free to email me with questions. I’m no expert on the subject, but I don’t want to spread any misinformation.

4. PVC or ½” ID Braided Clear Tubing. Enough to go from your pump to the bottom of your bucket. (Few Bucks at ace hardware)

5. 1 or 2 Metal Clamp thing for the tubing to connect to the airpump and PVC or tubing.

Now that you have your items it’s time to put it together.

Do this anyway that you want. It’s simple. Google Compost tea bucket and you will get some ideas. Just don’t short yourself on cheap pumps or a cheap air stone.

Connect the air stone to the Tubing or PVC and set the airs tone in the bottom of the bucket.

Run the tubing out of the bucket and connect to your air pump.

A few things about the air pump:

– Remove the factory brass nozzle on the air pump and put the ½” ID tubing over the top of the small round male part where the air comes out. This will increase airflow dramatically!

– You have to have the air pump above the tea bucket or you run the risk of ruining the pump when the power goes out or turns off.

You can leave the lid off and brew tea, of you can cut a hole in the lid and run the tubing for the air stone through the lid. The reason for this is that with only 4 gallons of water in the bucket it will still foam up and possibly overflow a little foam onto the floor.

Once you have your bucket setup with the powerful pump and proper diffuser air stone it’s time to brew some tea!!!

If you want to be positive that you have the best tea. Then you should get a microscope and do some serious reading. Otherwise I hope the above information was helpful in getting you started.


Another great way of doing this. Get some PVC and make a simple airlift and use a clamp to keep it in place.

Video of it in action:

Ever heard of compost tea? It’s a blend of organic matter that’s brewed to give your soil a boost toward optimum health. It’s not easy to make your own compost tea, but for those interested, here’s how.

What is Compost Tea?

Compost tea is a liquid produced by extracting beneficial microorganisms (microbes)—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and micro arthropods—from compost using a brewing process. A true compost tea contains all of the organisms that were present in the compost before brewing. The brewed water extract should also have soluble nutrients from the compost.

Benefits of Compost Tea

Compost tea is a good overall plant health booster (a little like vitamins for people), and healthy plants are better able to resist pests and diseases.

  • Good tea improves soil health. A healthy soil is less likely to leach nutrients down beyond plant root zones. If soil is nutrient-rich, the need for fertilizer is minimized.
  • Compost tea improves the water retention capacity of soil, which reduces the need for frequent watering.
  • Soil structure is improved with regular applications of compost tea. (Good soil structure is important for nutrient and water retention and accessibility.) The biological components in a soil are what create its structure. For good structure, all organism groups in the food web—bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, and micro arthropods—need to be present. When you add tea, you add these microbes.
  • Compost tea helps loosen clay soils for air and water to move, and helps sandy soils retain water and nutrients.
  • Plant root growth is stimulated by compost tea applications. Deeper roots retain moisture better and help to reduce runoff.
  • When sprayed onto plants, compost tea adds beneficial microbes to foliage. By occupying leaf surfaces, these organisms prevent potential disease organisms from gaining a foothold.
  • Compost tea combats the negative impact chemical-based pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers have on beneficial microorganisms.
  • Unlike store-bought fertilizers, tea recipes can be developed and fine-tuned to target specific conditions and plant needs.

You can buy compost tea in stores in powder form (though be sure to test it out first).

Or, you can make your own! Compost tea can be made with or without aeration, and with or without adding supplemental nutrient sources like molasses that feed microbes. For best results, aeration and supplements are recommended, and the right compost is critical.

This sample compost tea recipe is good for vegetable crops:


5-gallon bucket, filled with water (let it sit for 24 hours to allow chlorine to evaporate)

1 fish tank aerator

1 compost tea brewing bag (either purchase one online or make one from a scrap of meshed material such as row covering, tied with twine—it should be large enough to hold 5 to 6 pounds of dry ingredients)

1 aquarium thermometer


1 large handful of compost

1 handful of garden soil

2 handfuls of straw

3–5 leaves from a healthy plant

1 cup fish hydrolysate (pulverized fish, available at most garden centers)

1 cup seaweed extract (available at most garden centers)


Put the first five ingredients ingredients into the tea bag, tie the bag tightly and submerge it in the bucket of water. Add the fish hydrolysate and seaweed extract liquids directly to the water. Place the aerator in the bucket and turn it on. Brew the tea for about 36 hours, monitoring temperature—the optimal temperature is between 68° and 72°F. Dilute it to a 3 parts tea to 1part water ratio before spraying. Fill a backpack sprayer. Spray early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid burning leaves in the midday sun.

Tip: If you do not have a backpack sprayer, apply tea to the soil using a gallon jug, and a spray bottle to mist the foliage.

Best Practices

Monitor your brewing conditions. With each new batch, take note of the following:

  • Temperature of water during brewing; if you are unable to reach the optimal temperature range, consider buying a small submersible aquarium heater, available at most pet stores.
  • Any microbial foods added to the brew (and quantities); this is helpful information to have should you need to tweak the recipe later.
  • Length of time tea is brewed; if you find your tea is not having the desired effects, you may want to increase the brewing time.
  • The more information you have, the better equipped you will be to make changes to your recipe and/or brewing conditions, if need be.

Tip: Use the tea immediately after brewing; the longer it sits, the less active and effective it will be.

Clean Up

Be sure to clean your equipment and spray tank well between each brew (dirty equipment can breed harmful bacteria). Hydrogen peroxide or ammonia are appropriate cleaning agents.

To learn how to make good compost, watch our video on the perfect compost recipe.

How to Make Aerated Compost Tea

The quality of the compost used to make compost tea is really critical. The tea can only amplify the biology already present in the compost. So you want an incredibly biologically active compost, ideally one that has at least both bacteria and fungi, to serve as your inoculant. Compost piles that have been curing for three to six months are more likely to be fungal-dominated, while piles that have been curing for one to three months, tend to be more bacteria-dominated. I’ve heard several compost tea experts say that it can be difficult to get a good amount of fungi. If you can use a more fungal-dominated compost pile as an inoculant, that could give you a bit of an advantage. If you also happen to be cultivating mushrooms, you could try adding spent spawn to your compost to increase its fungal load.

Bacteria are very easy to grow in your tea — they are easy to extract and they like growing in the water. If you test your tea and find it to be fungi deficient but strong in bacteria, it is still good for inoculating your site with beneficial bacteria. You will just have to find another way to get replenish the fungi in your soil food web.

Food Sources for Your Compost Tea

The food sources you add to your compost tea will determine the composition of microorganisms that grow in it, as bacteria and fungi favor different food sources. Different recipes I found called for different ingredients, and these different ingredients allow you to select for a more bacterial or fungal tea. A mixture of these foods will create a tea with both bacteria and fungi, which is ideal for the remediation of contaminants.

Food sources for bacteria include simple sugars, simple proteins and simple carbohydrates. The most commonly used food source in compost tea recipes seems to be unsulphured molasses. Some other bacteria food sources include fruit juice, cane syrup and fish emulsion. Food for fungi include complex sugars, amino sugars and complex proteins. The most commonly used compost tea food sources for fungi are fish hydrolysate, kelp/seaweed and humic acid. Some additional food sources include fulvic acids, soybean meal, oat bran, oatmeal, fish oils, cellulose, lignin, cutins, rock phosphate dust, fruit pulp (oranges, apples and blueberries) and aloe vera extract (without preservatives). The more types of food added, the greater the diversity of species of microorganisms likely to be present.

Some grassroots compost tea brewers I spoke with preferred to avoid purchasing commercial products (like humic acid) for making their tea, and instead felt that it was sufficient to use their compost and worm castings as an inoculant, along with some dynamic accumulating and nutrient/mineral rich plants, weeds and seaweeds.

Compost Tea Recipe

This is a simple and standard recipe for five gallons of compost tea. The proportions can be multiplied for larger batches.


Ingredients and Supplies

  • five-gallon bucket (make sure it is clean!)
  • un-chlorinated water (either rainwater, pond or if tap)
  • 1 cup of inoculant (worm castings and/or aerobic compost)
  • 1/4 cup of food: unsulphured molasses, humic acid (1 tablespoon), fish hydrolase and kelp.
  • 1 compost tea bag/stocking
  • air pump
  • plastic watering can or backpack sprayer (one that has never been used for chemical applications)

Your Compost Tea Bag or Stocking

Many grassroots compost tea brewers I know use a nylon stocking to hold inoculant. However, some compost tea brewers claim that nylon is not the best material to use, and recommend using a non-sticky compost bag (like a polyester mesh screen) which will allow for more fungal extraction. The mesh should be at least 400 micrometers to allow fungi and nematodes to flow through. For optimal extraction, it is also important that you put your inoculant in the bag and not just directly in the water.

Aeration and Agitation

Use an air pump to keep your tea sufficiently oxygenated. Though there are many sources that say that some variation of an aquarium pump connected to some airstones could supply enough aeration for a five-gallon batch of compost tea, that is not necessarily the case.

What many folks don’t seem to know is that you need both aeration and agitation for effective compost tea brewing. Lots of compost tea brewers have pumps or bubblers that provide good aeration, but they may not provide the necessary agitation you need to truly aerate the water and knock the organisms, like fungi, off the organic matter and into solution. Fine bubbles don’t aerate water. It’s the breaking of the surface of the water that gets oxygen into it. So instead of a lightly bubbling compost tea, you should aim for more of a rolling boil, or churning. To achieve this, you may have to play around with a few different air pumps or generative blowers. Some sources suggested using a high-pressure (3.9 psi), high-volume air pump (17 gallons per minute). Avoid using air compressors as they can damage microorganisms.

Remember, these pumps need a power source, and the tea needs to be aerated constantly – so make sure no one turns off the pump at night. In a post-disaster situation where power may be more difficult to come by – or if you live somewhere where electricity is a touchy thing – it may be harder to make compost tea properly.

1. Pretreat your compost to increase its inoculant and fungal power. Take your compost inoculant and add some humic acid or fish hydrolase to it. Put it into a shallow tray and mix it up well. Then let it sit for two to three days. This encourages fresh microorganism growth in the tea. Many recipes don’t require you to pretreat your compost: you can treat this as an optional step or you can see it as a way to increase the effectiveness of your brew.

2. Fill a bucket with non-chlorinated water. Water temperature is ideally between 55-80oF. If using tap water, leave it sitting and uncovered for 24 hours to off-gas any chlorine, or add humic acid to it to deal with chloramine.

3. Put the airstone in the bottom of the bucket, attach the air pump and let it start to bubble. Make sure there is enough oxygen and agitation moving through your liquid; if not, get a more powerful pump or move to the gang valve and three-bubbler approach. Remember, you are looking for more of a churning or rolling boil, not simply fine bubbles.

4. Put inoculant in the stocking or mesh bag, tie off the end and suspend it in the water.

5. Add the food.

6. Let the whole brew bubble for 24 hours and for no longer than 36 hours. After 36 hours, if the tea received insufficient oxygen or too much food, anaerobic organisms will overcome the beneficial aerobic organisms. It will be obvious if the tea went anaerobic, because it will stink! If that has happened, pour it out away from garden plants and start over. One thing to be aware of — just because your compost tea smells earthy and sweet (which is the smell you are going for), it does not mean that it packs a microbial punch, as that smell can also come from molasses. If possible, do a soil biology test of your first few batches to see if you truly are rocking the microbe production.

7. Pour the mixture through a strainer to remove large debris so that it doesn’t clog your backpack sprayer or plastic watering can (supposedly bacteria can react with some metal cans).

8. Make sure to clean your bucket and pump for your next round of tea. Use a non-toxic, environmentally friendly, biodegradable cleaner.

Applying Compost Tea

Use your compost tea within four hours of turning off the bubbler, since after that amount of time without oxygen your aerobic microorganisms will begin to die. At this point, you can bring the tea to your site and apply it directly onto the contaminated and/or damaged land, a spill area or onto your phytoremediating plants to increase their health. It is best to apply your tea to moist soil or after a rain, on a cloudy morning or in the evening as some microorganisms do not like baking in the hot sun. If you are applying your tea with a sprayer, make sure that the sprayer doesn’t need too high a pressure and that the velocity of the spray is slow — the microbes you are working with benefit from gentle treatment. You can also take a digging fork or piece of rebar and make holes throughout your site to loosen soil and give the microorganisms a way to move more rapidly down to where the contamination may be.

With actively aerated compost tea, you can’t really have too much of a good thing. Some sources recommend that you use a minimum of about one gallon of tea for 1,000 square feet of contaminated land. When you are using tea for remediation (drenching the soil instead of spraying plants) you do not need to dilute your tea. Finally, apply tea several times, waiting anywhere from two weeks to one month between applications.

If you are going to be making large brews of compost tea, you can use a rain barrel-sized container. Just make sure to adjust the proportions of inoculant and food and get a strong enough pump or two to ensure the barrel is properly oxygenated and agitated. You can also purchase pre-made compost tea brewer systems that ranges from a five-gallon system priced around US$180 to a 1,000-gallon compost tea brewer for US$7,000.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Earth Repair: A Grassroots Guide to Healing Toxic and Damaged Landscapes (New Society Publishers, 2013). Buy this book from our store: Earth Repair.

Compost Tea

In my experience, compost tea is one key to tomato growing success. Initially, I learned about compost tea when I attended a seminar taught by Jeff Lowenfels, who is one of the authors of the book, Teaming With Microbes. Then I purchased the Simplici-Tea compost tea kit from Keep It Simple (KIS) Farm in Redmond, Washington and have been brewing my own since 2005 with excellent results. This is a product that is safe and organic, inexpensive, simple to create yourself, easy to apply and it really works.

What is compost tea?

Basically, compost tea is the solution you get when you place some compost (or vermicompost) along with some extra nutrients into a bucket of water equipped with a small pump that bubbles air into the water–like in an aquarium, for a day or two. This is not to be confused with leaving compost in a bucket of water to sit for a couple of days. Without an air pump, the resulting solution would contain mostly bad-smelling anaerobic bacteria that might even be dangerous. The bubbling action of the pump separates the microbes from the compost while keeping them alive and allowing them to multiply, producing billions of beneficial, aerobic microbes in several gallons of water. The resulting mix should not smell bad.

How do you make Compost Tea?

I purchase compost tea bags from KIS Farm and brew them in my KIS Brewer which is a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a pump.

This system is inexpensive, easy to use and I believe it’s the only 12-hour brewer currently on the market. The ready-to-use compost tea bags are a prepackaged balance of bacteria and fungi along with the extra nutrients for microbes and plants. Using these takes any guesswork out of the equation since they contain both bacteria and fungi along with other nutrients. The combined solution benefits all of my plants including tomatoes, roses, lawn, trees, shrubs, berries and vegetables. According to Teaming With Microbes, annual plants prefer the bacteria in the solution where perennials, shrubs and trees prefer the fungi. Since vermicompost (compost from a worm bin) tends to be bacteria-dominant, it would probably make a good tea for tomato plants and other annuals, but you would need to do some research to find a recipe if you plan to create your own compost tea bag. There is more information on building your own tea brewer in the book: Teaming With Microbes.

How do the microbes help in the garden?

The microbes help in the root zone and on plant surfaces.

In the root zone, an influx of beneficial microbes can out-compete bad ones for nutrients and space.

On plant surfaces, microbes can provide protection from attack due to insects or diseases.

Other benefits, according to Keep It Simple, include:

–Helps extend root systems

–Increases water and nutrient retention

–Helps breakdown toxins in soil and on plants

–Enhances taste of fruits and vegetables

Do compost and mulches offer the same benefits?

Compost and mulches contain the same microbes, however it takes a lot longer for them to get to the root zone and they cannot attach to plant surfaces at all. Plus compost tea has been shown to contain four times the number of microbes as compared to compost.

For specific information on working with microbes, building your own brewer, creating compost and more, I highly recommend reading Teaming With Microbes.

For information on the KIS Brewer and tea kits, I recommend visiting the Simplici-Tea website.


Teaming With Microbes. Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. 2006. Timber Press.

© Copyright 2007



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I have had numerous questions about how to make and use compost tea from Tomato Tone. In this article I will explain, as best as I possibly can, how I have successfully used Tomato Tone tea to produce some of the best tomatoes in the world. In another article, I have written more about the various ways that I use this great fertilizer, specially formulated to provide everything tomato plants need throughout the season.

My Observations Since Using Tomato Tone

Before I started using this awesome Espoma product, I used many different brands and blends of fertilizers. I had plenty of successes, but nothing like I am having now. Since converting, one of the things that I have noticed, is that I haven’t had any incidents of blossom end rot. Another improvement is in the area of production. My plants have been healthier and produce at least 25% more fruits. I also love that plants never get burned, even when I am heavy-handed with my tea. Plants are always very responsive to a needed drink of TT tea. Within a few days of feeding, they visually come alive!

What I Use For Measuring

I do not use a standard size measuring cup, but this explanation will give you a better idea of how I successfully use and make compost tea. I use containers that I have around the house from my Chinese food store purchase. (Love Chinese Food). Yearly, I grow an average of 700-800 plants. , So I make a lot of tea! Normally, I go through 6-8, eighteen pound bags per year. This includes using the straight pellets/granules in my planting holes and that first drink of tea to water them in when transplanted.

After that first drink, I do not feed for another 3-4 weeks. I then continue to feed every 3 weeks from that point. Each time I feed or water from that point, I use 1 quart per plant. If there are lengthy periods of dry weather, watering is done twice weekly. If not, once weekly, unless it has rained. I try to water directly on the root-ball of the plant.

Ratio Of Tomato Tone To Water

1 Quart = 2 pints= 4 cups= 64Tbs =32 ounces = 2lbs.

1 Pint = 2 cups =32Tbs =16 ounces =1lb

1 Cup = 16 Tbs = 8 ounces

1/4 Cup = 4Tbs =2 ounces

For quick mix, use warm water and let mix sit for 1 hour before use.

I do my mixing in 5 gallon buckets. My mixture is, one full cup (8 ounces) see picture above, per 5 gallon bucket. To save time, I measure and mix (in one bucket), enough to supply 10 buckets of tea. After tea is made I just divide the concentrate in 10, then fill the rest of the buckets with water. If you are making smaller quantities, like one gallon, just for a few plants, simply do the math. I use 1/4 to1/2 cup per gallon of tea. Remember your plants will not get burnt even if you are way over the recommended amounts.

NOTE: Tomato Tone tea will begin to develop a stench after a few days of non-use. It usually becomes worse with every passing day. It still can be used and would not hurt your plants, just your ego!

I believe Tomato Tone is sold in 8 and 18 pound bag quantities. I purchase the 18 pound bags for about fifteen dollars each. There may also be smaller quantities available, inquire! PS: Watch out for end of season sales, where TT and other organic fertilizers can be purchased for as much as half that costs . Stores excellently in cool dry place.

Let me know if this article helped!!

~Curtis T Maters~

Fertilizer teas have more nutrients than compost teas

We’re doing something different to make plant fertilizers at Bioponica. It is similar to making compost tea but it’s different. We’re making liquid fertilizer teas.

Compost teas are good for putting plant friendly microbes into solution and multiplying them through aeration and adding simple sugars. Bacteria comsumes the sugars and quickly multiplies. It provides essential elements to improve plant growth.

Worm teas are similar to compost teas, though there’s a bit of a difference with the microbe characteristics. Fungi are more prevalent in compost teas. Bacteria dominate worm teas as they are colonized in the gut of earthworms.

How to make compost teas and worm teas is pretty basic. In a suitable filtration tea bag add a ratio of worm castings. Close bag and introduce to dechlorinated water, preferably rain water or well water. Add sugar, molasses or another natural sweetener to the water and aerate. Within about 24 hours your compost tea is finished and ready to apply to the soil or to your soilless growing system.

Bioponica developed an easy DIY fertilizer process and inexpensive system making fertilizer teas.

Teas that have greater NPK percentages that compost teas can be considered Fertilizer Teas. We make fertilizer teas to support the Biogarden for deep water culture or for flood and drain techniques within the troughs. This doesn’t eliminate the usefulness of aerated and fermented compost teas and brewed worm teas. On the contrary, they are very compatible.

Bioponica lettuce growing fertilizer tea recipe:

  • 5 lbs blended green kitchen discards (in blender or food processor)
  • or 5 lbs of fresh green yard trimmings (weeds, leaves, grasses).
  • 3 x 2′ Bio-Fertilizer Tea Bag™
  • 55 gallon barrel of water (half full)

Soak for 24-36 hours without aeration in the drum or in a 5 gallon Extraction Bucket. Put contents into 55 gallon drum and attache Vortex Aerator and Biofilter. The contents of the bag will remain partially anaerobic. The plant derived extract will quickly convert into a Fertilizer Tea. Good for lettuce or green leafy vegetable grow area of 10 sq ft and will last 1-2 weeks depending on system and plant size.

Operating the Vortex Fertilizer Brewer™

The Bucket Vortex Aerator™ sits upon the Bucket Biofilter™. The inline processing removes water from the drum and passes it through the aerating vortex which spills in to the biological filter.

Place the Vortex Fertilizer Kit™ above the barrel. Connect hoses and turn on the pump.

Tip: If you have access to vermiculture earthworm castings or a decomposed compost pile add 3 lbs of the compost to the 55 gallon barrel after the fertilizer extraction, aeration and filtration has been going for 24 hours. No need to add sugars, as there’s lots of carbon and sugars from the biomass that was used to make the tea.

Leave the Vortex Fertilizer Brewer™ running until the desired amount of carbon and ammonia conversion. Usually 3-4 days. You’ll know when it’s complete, when the turbidity and cloudiness disappears and when the water sweet extract aroma has peaked, carbon is removed, ammonia nitrified and the water becomes mostly odorless.

Happy gardening.

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