Compost Tea Bucket

Make Compost Tea With This DIY Home Brewer

Please welcome guest blogger for the day and author of the book The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard, Brett L. Markham. Brett is the author of multiple popular Mini Farming books, including Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre, Maximizing Your Mini Farm, and the handbooks The Mini Farming Guide to Vegetable Gardening and The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting.

Before writing The Mini Farming Guide to Composting, Brett asked his readers which topic he should focus on next, and composting topped their wish list. Using the same straightforward, easy-to-follow instructions and photos of his own plot that gained him the following for his earlier books, he now turns his green thumbs to this important, yet overlooked, aspect of growing plants. Today he shares with us instructions on how to make a compost tea brewer at home!DIY Compost Tea Brewing System

There are a number of commercial compost tea systems on the market, but on the scale of a home garden or mini farm, especially given the current state of science regarding compost tea, I don’t see buying such a system as justified. It is easy and inexpensive to make compost tea with parts from the hardware and pet store. The system demonstrated costs less than $20.


  • 1 x 5-gallon bucket
  • 1 x old pillowcase, the more threadbare the better
  • 1 x aquarium aerator (any size from 5–20 gallons)
  • 1 or 2 x check valves (included with aerator)
  • 1 or 2 x aeration stones
  • 8′ aquarium air hose, standard size

 Compost Tea Brewer Materials

Make it!

1. Cut the hose to the lengths required for your set-up and attach the hose from the aeration stones to the check valves, ensuring the arrows on the check valves are pointing in the direction of air flow.Compost Tea Brewer Set Up

2. Cut additional lengths of hose needed to attach the check valves to the aeration pump.

3. Place the aeration stones in the bottom of your bucket.

Compost Tea

4. Arrange your pillowcase in the bucket as though it were a trash bag in a trash can.

5. Place one shovel full of compost in the pillow case.

Compost Tea at Home

6. Use string to tie the pillow case shut.

Compost Tea Bucket

7. Fill the bucket most of the way with water.

8. Turn on the pump and allow to bubble for the requisite length of time.

9. Turn off the pump, remove the pillowcase filled with compost and empty the compost.

10. Use immediately. Once aeration is removed, the aerobic bacteria and fungi die quickly.

Smell It!

The nose knows. When your compost tea is done brewing, give it the sniff test. If it smells like fresh dirt, it is properly brewed. But if it smells putrid, rotten or otherwise yucky, don’t put it on your plants. Your nose is imperfect, but it was designed by nature to help keep you safe. If what you brewed smells unsafe, it probably is—so discard it. The odds of this happening if you have followed the directions and recommendations in this chapter are very low, but it never hurts to give things a final check just in case.


Check out great projects like this and more in Brett’s new book, The Mini Farming Guide to Composting: Self-Sufficiency from Your Kitchen to Your Backyard.

Mini Farming Guide to Composting

Whether it’s your mini farm or flower garden that needs nourishment, Brett explains how to compost just about anything you can grow. In this handy guide you’ll find instructions that make composting simple with checklists, extensive tables, measurements, and diagrams. Topics include:

  • The importance of soil microbiology
  • The nutrient cycle
  • Compost and sustainable nutrient cycles
  • Sustainability and a positive bottom line
  • Theory: the science of compost
  • Practice: the technique of compost
  • Other sustainability practices: biochar and more
  • Indoor composting: vermicomposting
  • Limits of composting, appropriate amendments
  • Easy composting bins you can make yourself

  1. Heather
    HeatherMarch 26,13

    This might be a stupid question but what’s the “requisite amount of time” for running the bubbler?

  2. Brett Markham
    Brett MarkhamApril 1,13

    Hi Heather!

    The timing parameters and the reasons for them are spelled out earlier in the chapter from which this excerpt is taken. The answer is: anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Anything longer than 24 hours and the bacteria won’t have enough food. Anything shorter than 12 hours, and they won’t have enough time to multiply.

    Though I have seen instructions on the Internet advocating specifically adding food to compost tea (such as molasses) in order to brew compost tea for longer than 24 hours, I advise against this because doing this will automatically alter the mix of bacterial populations.

    Hopefully this helps! I also answer reader questions via my website at

  3. Robert pavlis
    Robert pavlisJanuary 1,14

    There is no scientific evidence that compost tea works. Adding more microbes to your soil is not likely to be of any benefit since the soil already has the microbes it needs and microbes grow extremely fast if given some food.

    the nutrient value of compost tea is extremely low.

    It is much better to just add the compost to the garden.

    For more details see:

    (link removed for security reasons)

    • Lynne
      LynneJune 19,16

      My late husband made his own by putting a scoop of rotten manure in a bucket and letting it steep. As for smell, it smelled exactly like what is was but he grew tomatoes diner plate size.

  4. joel peters
    joel petersJuly 24,14

    Can I use fruit and vegetable scraps, or does it have to be compost in the bag?

    • Lynne
      LynneJune 19,16

      Bury daily scraps all winter, egg shells included and always keep the last contribution marked with a stick or something. All winter, up and do your rows. Come spring and planting time what’s last added will,continue to decay and feed the soil.

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