If you've already made your own EM or have store-bought ones, then making bokashi bran is very easy.

Here are the ingredients we need.

What is EM

EM, or effective micro-organisms, are the combination of different kinds of beneficial microbes to help bring out good results in less time, less cost, and with sustainable effectiveness.

People have seen much bigger, faster growth with their plants with some microbes mixed in. In chicken coops, it helps reduce smell, stops lice infestation and aids chicken digestion.

Making bokashi bran is a way to capture these microbes in a form that can be stored for a longer time even without refrigeration and then later used.

You need EM to make the bokashi bran in this post. It can be bought or homemade. If you want to make it yourself, you can follow the instructions here to get started --> How to make EM at home easily

Ingredients:

  • 500ml / 2 cups water
  • 15ml / 1 tbsp EM
  • 15ml / 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 kg / 2 lbs bran
preparing-bokashi-bran-ingredients
Preparing ingredients

For the bran or the 'carrier' of the EM, you can also use newspaper, rice bran, rye bran, oat bran, cornmeal, sawdust or other inert materials. In Canada, it may be hard to find rice bran/wheat bran, so those are the alternatives you could use. Here we'll be using soybean bran.

If you use rice bran, prepare some wheat flour to throw in so it doesn't clump up in the process of mixing.

Now we can start with:

Making Bokashi Bran

When you have all the ingredients ready, we can begin our first step which is...

Step 1: Mix EM + Molasses With Water

Measure out 15 ml EM and 15 ml molasses. Pour both into 500ml of water and stir well.

step-one-mix-em-molasses-with-water

After mixing the EM and molasses, it will look something like this:

step-one-after-mixing

Then, we can move on to:

Step 2: Mix Our Solution With the Bran

Dump 1 kg bran into a container. Then pour the solution we've just made (about 500+ ml) in with the bran. Mix it well.

step-two-mix-solution-with-bran
Mixing bokashi bran

At first, it may feel like it's too wet or we've put in too much liquid. However keep on mixing, especially the bottom part so there is no dry spot.

The absorption of the bran may also depend on its age. As more bran absorbs the liquid, it will turn out nicely and well-incorporated.

This is probably the most time-consuming part of the process if you're hand-mixing.

To quickly test if it's moist enough, grab a ball of bran and squeeze it in your hand. If excess liquid drips out, it means it's too wet. You can add more bran or keep on mixing it more.

If it forms a nice shape and crumbles when you break it, then it's good enough.

step-two-test-moisture

And you're basically done!

The done mixture has a very nice smell like that of tomato juice in my case and a golden brown color like cookie crumble.

Step 3: Further Fermenting, Drying & Storing

From here, you can put the bran somewhere dark and warm in an airtight container. Let it ferment for another 2-3 weeks in the summer or 4-6 in the winter.

After 2 weeks, take some out to check how it's progressing. The bran should have a nice pleasant fermented smell. If there is some white fuzz on top, it's absolutely fine.

happening-of-bokashi-bran-10-days
Happening of bokashi bran 10 days in.

For me, on day 2 that I checked, the batch smelled a bit like tofu. I guess it's because I used soybean bran. And 10 days in, it developed this thin white coating on top and smelled nice. Not anything unpleasant at all.

However, if it smells acrid or horrid then something might have gone wrong. It may be either the mixture is too wet or the container is not airtight. In this case, start over and get a new batch going.

Drying

If the bokashi turns out good, you can take it out and spread it thinly on a surface to dry.

drying-bokashi-bran
Drying bokashi bran

Dry it in a brightly lit place but avoid strong direct sunlight as the heat or UV rays could kill the microbes.

When dried, store it in an airtight container. The bran will be good for up to 2 years.

bokashi-bran-done
Bokashi bran done

Be sure to dehydrate it in a good clean place, so other contamination won't affect your bran.

some-contamination-in-bokashi-bran-after-drying

When taken out to use, the moisture + some heat will wake the microbes up.

With the bokashi bran made, you can take some to use for your next gardening needs.

But... I wonder

Why Further Ferment and Not Use Right Away?

I noticed that when left exposed to air in a dark place, the bran gets really hot. Up to 43C (~110F).

heat-of-microbes
Heat of microbes

When touching the glass jar, I thought the heat of the underneath stove was heating it up. But no, it was the microbes I guess somehow!

This lasted for about a day. After that the jar cooled down. There was no smell at first. But some time later, it did leave a weird smell.

When used in a bokashi bucket with some fruits and veggies, it smelled a bit like acetone. If I recall correctly, the white bloom did not appear much at all, stopped or grew very slowly.

Interestingly, the temp point 43C (110F) is also the point recommended for starting & making yogurt. It's also the point beyond which, in black soldier fly BSF insect farming, the little larvae (or may be the microbes on their skin) may not survive. So this does leave some room to ponder upon. Some I have in mind are:

  • Does starch excite (activate) the microbes that much?
  • Is the heat relative to the oxygen?
  • Can they be used as heat generators (where some warmth is needed)?
  • Are the microbes in this thing and on the BSF skin similar?

And so on...

The one thing I wouldn't repeat for my next batch is to leave the just-finished-mixing bran exposed to air. Either we can use it right away in a container lid closed, or dry it then store for longer usage. Works really well from what I've seen.

Anyway, going back to our bokashi usage, you can start:

Using Bokashi

For Composting

If you want to use the bran for composting, you can add in a bottom layer of bokashi bran in a container. Then, throw in some food scraps.

sprinkling-bokashi-bran-into-bucket

If you're generous, sprinkle some more bran on top. This can help keep the smell down especially for higher-protein foods.

Then close the lid tightly, let the microbes do their thing & enjoy the results.

Here are some updates:

After one day, we can see some white fuzz or bloom developing.

white-fuzz-developing-bokashi-bran
White fuzz developing

My guess is those are the blooms of the Lactobacillus, not the mycelium (white strings) of fungi though as I didn't put any fungi in.

Little Lactobacillus Story

Lactobacillus, as you may have known it, are wonderful micro-organisms. From the words of Old Gardener Guy - Finland, they did an experiment with Lacto back in Helsinki University where they put E.Coli on agar petri dishes and pipetted different strains of Lactobacillus in and incubated.

After a few days, when taken out of the incubator space, circular structures (some large some small) were observed around the E.Coli. These circular zones stopped the further growth of the E.Coli. The lacto may have produced some sort of probiotics that could inhibit the growth of the bad guys. Together with their prolific production of polysaccharides, these guys colonize the intestine lining fast, leaving little room for harmful enterobacteria (gut bacteria) to step foot in.

Some white coating developed:

beautiful-development-lacto-envelopment
Some white structure envelopment

When extracting the bokashi juice and left in a dark place, the same structure/pattern developed on the top surface of the juice.

lacto-on-juice-and-organic-matter
The structure on bokashi juice and the organic matter

>> Is this what's inside our stomach lining as we digest foods?? Is this why they call it gut flora, like coral reef blooming inside the stomach. It reminds me of the surface of some architecture. Really beautiful.

20 days after:

development-after-20-days
Development after 20 days

The bucket on the left is another bucket. I wanted to show you the white bloom development. The bucket on the right is the one we are doing. It has blooms + the white coating structure we've seen before.

For now that's about it for today. Will keep updating you on the results.

You can also use the bran for your chicken coops:

Using Bokashi Bran for Chicken Coop

You could also sprinkle some done bokashi bran around your chicken coop. Or in a deep litter design. Although the smelly smell may not get eliminated, it can be reduced.

The bran when mixed with chicken drink or feed could help develop good gut bacteria for the chicks.

According to a farmer, it can help boost nutrient absorption rate from about 60% to 80%, meaning the chicks guts absorb more of the nutrients in the same amount of foods they get.

In one chicken farm of about 60000 layer hens, the birds were getting lice infestation. They sprayed these LAB guys with fermented plant juice (FPJ) and oriental herb nutrients (OHN) in appropriate proportions recommended by natural farming methods. Within days, the lice disappeared.

As the good bacteria population in your chicken coop increases, it can also drive out the bad guy population. They can then be happy campers then. And healthier chickens.

>> Link Blog post: How to use bokashi in the garden

Bokashi Composting Video

For more bokashi instructions, check out this excellent video on bokashi composting, step by step:

Bokashi Composting

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