To make your own EM1 without buying store-bought solutions, we need to find the microbes, create a little house to keep them & mix some food to keep them alive and happy. Today, we'll share with you 3 recipes for making your own homemade EM for cheap and for longer uses. Let's explore together!

Brief Benefits of EM

The EM microbes have been found to be very effective in improving soil conditions, even for the most lifeless and clayey soil in some areas. By using EM, growers rely less on undesirable pesticides or other chemical stuff. People have seen their fruits, veggies and flowers grow stronger & produce 2x the size of the normal ones with some of this EM stuff mixed in.

In chicken coops, piggeries, fish ponds or pet litter, these microbes can help reduce the foul smell. And for composting specifically, EM works like a charm by keeping the smell down and speeding up the composting process. In some places, they purify water with this solution for cost reduction. Magical as it may sound, EM is as simple as it can be. It's very easy and cheap to make as the microbes exist mostly everywhere around us.

Let's see some of the basics so you can make your own at home:


The Basic Conditions

As you've seen earlier, there are about 3 basic conditions to cultivate EM:

  1. The microbes
  2. The house
  3. The food

Fortunately, to find these microbes you can easily look around your local markets or right in your kitchen. Microbes live on the outside of grains, fruits, veggies, etc. For our experiment today, we'll be using rice grains to collect them.

The house to keep them can be a mason jar with a lid so we can easily offgas the CO2. Also, for the water in the solution, we'll use de-chlorinated water as chlorine water could kill off the bacteria we're harvesting. Warm water around our body temperature is best to keep the little microbe ones happy.

Finally, we need a food source for the microbes. For this, you can use salt, sugar or minerals. Sea salt will give the microbes the minerals whereas sugar will give them the carbohydrates. You can also add ceramic powder, rock powder, azomite to add some calcium & other minerals to it. Milk and kelp are also good sources of food for these guys.

The Good Bacteria We're Cultivating

Although in most lab-made EM there are different species like lactic acid bacteria (LAB), yeast and photosynthetic bacteria, we'll mostly be cultivating LAB in our solution. Even with little of the other species, folks have also got very good results with using the LAB-dominant EM for their compost or garden.

Initially when we start our batch, there will be more than just one type of bacteria in it. However, when we keep our solution in a dark place (as you'll see in the making steps next), the LAB will become the dominant specie–which it still is in many lab-generated EM.

Speaking of different types of bacteria, I am experimenting with some home-cultivated photosynthetic bacteria (PSB), one of the components of EM. Waiting to see the results.

>> Link Blog post: How to make PSB photosynthetic bacteria at home

Enough of the theory & let's get our hands to the chopping next!

Recipe #1: Only Rice

(~ 7 Days, No Electricity Required)

For this recipe you'll need rice and some additional food for the microbes:

For 1.5 liter bottle
150 gram brown rice
15 gram sea salt
45 gram brown sugar
1500 ml mineral water
For 6 liter bottle
600 gram brown rice
60 gram sea salt
180 gram brown sugar
6000 ml mineral water

This recipe is shared by Healthy Roots & Strong Winds during their exploration time in Thailand. The work is mostly inspired Master Cho & his dedication to natural farming techniques.

Please also note, 1.5 or 6 liter bottle is usually designed with an empty space from the shoulder to the bottle neck, so you don't have to worry about overflowing or CO2 bubbling the contents out.

From here, many people also ask:

Why Brown Rice, Brown Sugar and Sea Salt?

What we're trying to do here is to gather all the good guys we can on different materials. Brown rice, red rice or brown sugar still has the unprocessed coatings on the outside. These coatings contain extra vitamins & minerals that can be beneficial for our process.

Brown sugar, from some people's experience, contains some more nutrients than the white one–which helps the nourishment and makes the process a bit faster. With good input, we can get good output in return.

However, if you can't find brown rice, brown sugar or pink sea salt (also called Himalayan pink salt) or Celtic salt in the local area, that is okay. Using white rice, white sugar or table salt still works. We will get a different dynamic of microbes in our mix.

Here we will see the steps for making:

Step 1:  Mix the Ingredients

Using lukewarm water, mix our salt and sugar in a jar or bottle. Stir lightly so they get dissolved. Then, pour the brown rice in. And then, shake the bottle.

When shaking, you'll want to do it like the number 8 vertical or the number ∞ horizontal like a tornado. This is to make sure the grains grub well with each other on all sides & not just left and right.

This helps to get the coatings & the LAB living on them to come out and mix with our water solution. You don't need to strain the rice grains out after shaking.

Step 2:  Keep Bottle in a Warm Dark Place for 7 Days

After mixing & shaking, close the lid and place your bottle somewhere dark and warm for about 7 days. Around body temperature would be great. Keep it out of direct sunlight because the UV rays can kill the microbes.

And then we can:

Step 3:  Strain the Liquid From the Rice & Enjoy

Every day or so, check your bottle to see if there's any air bubbles building up. Open the lid slightly to let the CO2 gas out. Then, after a week or 10 days, strain the liquid out and you'll have your very own army of EM solution to use. With the remaining rice grains, you can dump them into the compost bin.

In colder climates, it may take longer so remember to keep the bottle somewhere warm or wrap blankets around it for the microbes to remain active. And with this recipe, you can make & reproduce your own EM at home.

There is another way to make EM, and this time we'll be using both rice and milk:

Recipe #2: Rice & Milk

(~ 7-14 Days, No Electricity Needed)

For this recipe, we'll use rice and milk:

Rice-milk LAB
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
Organic milk

Step 1: Mix the Rice & Water

Mix the rice into water. Then shake the bottle until the liquid turns a bit brown. Then, you can strain off the rice. The rice we use is uncooked and white rice is also fine.

step-one-wash-the-rice

Pour the rice wash into a container, leaving about 3/4 head space. It will leave space for the beneficial microbes in the air to come in and multiply.

Step 2: Keep Bottle in Warm Dark Place Until It Has a Slightly Sweet-Sour Smell

Then, let the bottle sit in a warm dark place for about a week. Place a breathable cover (like napkin, coffee filter or paper towel. I switch from one-time-use napkin to using breathable reusable sink filter for mine) on the top to let the CO2 air out and invite the good microbes in. After some hours or days, the LAB in our mix will grow in number.

For the first few days, if you have a quick sniff, the solution will have a mildly sweet smell that's also kind of starchy. If you're using some breathable cloth cover and rubber band, make sure it's not too aromatic. Or else it could be mixed with the rice smell making it harder to tell if it's ready.

When you place your ears near the top, you'll hear some little fizzing and sizzling. At times, there may be bubbles at the top. The smell may differ slightly depending on the type of rice you're using.

An example, this is the rice wash after 1 day:

step-two-keep-bottle-in-warm-place
The rice wash clears up after 1 day

Watch out for some yellow stuff forming near the top:

yellow-stuff-in-curd
Fermented rice wash after 7 days

I'm not sure if this is a kind of mold or something. But it smells quite bad. Quite frankly, it smells like fart. From a YouTuber's info that I asked, this doesn't matter and it still contains good bacteria. You may want to scoop out the yellow part.

Depending on how hot or cold your area is, you can pour out this fermented rice wash sooner or later. It doesn't have to be a fixed 7-day period.

Let your nose be the guide. Have a quick sniff of the stuff, if it smells slightly sweet-sour and you feel that it's just right, take out some and use it in the next step. For me in this current weather, about 12 hours is good enough.

When that's done, we can move on to:

Step 3: Mix 1 Part LAB to 10 Parts Milk

As you may have noticed with this recipe, we provide no salt or sugar for the microbes from the beginning. So this is when our little creatures are craving for food. If we mix the LAB in milk when they're most hungry, they take the opportunity fast & reproduce quickly.

Milk contains good carbohydrates for the little guys to munch on. Mix in 1 part LAB to 10 parts milk. Leave the LAB-milk mixture in a warm dark place. Then, after about another week or less, you'll see some solid curd forming on the top. That is the fat + casein protein separated from milk. You don't have to throw that away. You can actually keep it to make cheese.

happening-of-milk-curd-separating-night-to-noon
Happening of milk to curd and whey with LAB added

And the yellowish-brownish liquid under the curd is the whey, which now houses millions of good LAB microbes for us to use. You can scoop the curd out on top then pour out some of that liquid whey in a container.

the-curd-and-the-whey
The whey is the stuff we want (with thousands of good microbes)

I extracted out the whey liquid and mix it with water (1:10 ratio) & put it in a little spray bottle.

whey-water-mix
I guess we can call this a basic homemade EM

Some folks add some extra Yakult drinking yogurt (with live Lactobacillus Casei gut bacteria) to this whey mixture for a double-shot concoction with hopefully double the power. I haven't tried it but you can try it if you like.

You can use this mix to fertilize the plants or spray around the compost bins. I mist it in my bokashi composting bucket, a bit around my dragon fruit cuttings & adenium seedlings. Works great from what I've seen so far.

spraying-em1-to-bokashi-bucket
Spraying basic EM1 in bokashi bucket

I've been using this stuff for my adenium plants, you can see how beautiful they've grown here ^^ (yeh yeh yeh):

adenium-growth-one-month
Adenium one month old with some EM
From Blog post: Water and Sunlight for Desert Roses

Especially if you apply it during the active growing season (with good sunlight & water), the plants grow up fast and strong.

Finally, if you want a one-ingredient recipe, how about checking out the last recipe with:

Recipe #3: Only Milk

(~ 1 Night, Some Electricity Needed)

With this final recipe, we're doing something different. Let's make some yogurt! Why? Because we want the whey or the yellowish liquid of the yogurt making process. Skipping all the other steps of mixing in salt, sugar & minerals, this is one simple way to get your own good microbes at home. And some yogurt for the kids.

If you don't know how to make it yet, let's see the steps below:

Step 1: Heat 1 Gallon of Milk

Heat 1 gallon (about 4.5 liters) of milk up to 180F (82C) for about 10-30 minutes.

Step 2: Reduce the Heat & Add Yogurt Starter

Then, reduce the heat of the milk to 43C (110F) and add your yogurt starter. About a tablespoon or so of starter would be good enough.

A yogurt starter can be simply some store-bought yogurt to get your batch started.

If it's too hot when we pour some yogurt starter in, the bacteria may die. So we need to reduce the heat.

Step 3: Keep it Warm For 7 Hours

Keep your batch at around 43C (110F) for the next 7+ hours. Then, when the milk sets (turns into a solid state), pour out the yellowish whey underneath.

With that whey, you can use it directly to spray around your compost bins or dilute it to fertilize your plants. And with that, in about a night, you'll get your own easy homemade EM solution ready for use in the garden.

If you'd like to stabilize and store your EM for longer usage:

Extra Step: Stabilizing and Storing Your EM

EM can be good for up to 3 years in the fridge. To store it at room temperature, you could mix in a 1:1 ratio of molasses or brown sugar to the made EM. For example, if you have harvested 500 ml of EM, then mix in 500 ml of molasses.

From a test of one maker, the molasses-mixed EM stored at room temperature can be good for up to 2 years. The time point at which they tested its viability again with a simple way like this:

To Test if EM Is Still Active After Years

You can take out some made EM (stored in molasses), then mix:

  • 30ml made EM
  • 30ml molasses
  • 1L water

Add some molasses to the made EM, then mix them in water. Then, in a kilo of rice bran (very cheap in places), add 500 ml of the EM mixture. You could alternatively use old newspapers as the 'carrier'.

Here, mix the bran so it is well moist all around. When you squeeze some rice bran in the hand, it should form in shape nicely without excess water dripping out. This is when it is moist enough.

Then take some bran out and store in an airtight (little oxygen) box. Sit the box in a warm dark place. After 3-7 days, take it out and have a look inside. If the inside has developed some white mold on top, then congrats your EM is very much active and alive. The process we just did is also known as 're-activating' or 'refermenting' the EM.

In places with changing hots-n-colds (like an air-conditioned room turning on and off) or when some humidity gets inside the box, there may be some green mold developing with the white one. If the tested sample is good, then the rest of your batch can still be used as bokashi bran.

We have a bokashi bran guide here if you're interested:

💡
>> Link Blog post: How to Make Bokashi Bran

Using EM for Plants

spraying-em-for-plants
Spraying EM micro-greens

With this stuff made, you can mix about 6ml per 1L water for spraying. Or about 3-4 teaspoons per gallon to spray your plants.

And that's all there is to it!

Have Fun Making Your Own EM

As you have seen, making your own EM mix at home is both fun and easy. With the Only Rice recipe, you can add some salt and sugar amount with the rice to feed the microbes.

With the Rice & Milk recipe, you only need rice and milk and not much of the salt and sugar. And finally, with the Only Milk one, you're getting the real essence from the milk without much addition.

Hope these little recipes have given you some ideas to get started. Have fun making EM & have a great time composting. Cheers and See you again here next time!

Responses to Readers' Questions

Hi, this was delightful to read, and very helpful. I need to get brewing a large amount of EM in advance of getting some sheep for my homestead in Langkawi. Your #1 recipe is the closest to the recipe I was given by the local farmer, however, his recipe calls for mother EM which I will have to order online. May I know, is this recipe using brown rice suitable for using with my sheep?

--> Thanks for your kind words. In response to your question, although the #1 recipe is labeled as EM, the basis of this mixture is a probiotics. Or simply we're cultivating the beneficial microbes already existing on the rice grains. On this basis, the solution can actually be used as a digestive-supporting drink, even for us humans.

>> Link YouTube: guy tasting EM1 at 7:24, he shares it tastes like kombucha

Effective Microorganisms Suppress Disease & Increase Yield on Your Crops

For animal care, you could dilute the mixture in their food and water or use it to spray their houses/bodies for deodorizing or disinfecting. Inside the mix are lactic acid bacteria (a good dominant bacteria), organic acids, some proteins, vitamins, and minerals. If it's okay to use for dogs (some people bathe their dogs with this solution), cats, pigs, hamsters, chickens, I think it could also work for your sheep. Try a little bit to see their re-actions. People use brown rice instead of white rice because it still has that brown coating with vitamins. Check your rice source to make sure the rice is good. Then the sheep will be okay. I hope this helps!

>> Link YouTube:

How to make Low Cost Probiotics for your Livestocks ( English Sub )

Hi. in the first recipe there's two options, one for 1.5 liter and second for 6 liter. In the first it says 100 ml of mineral water and in the second 6000 ml. I just want to know if its a mistake or not. Thanks for this information, helped me allot!

--> Thanks for your question and great observation. Indeed, yes it is my typing mistake. I do apologize and have made the correction. So for 1.5 liter bottle it is 1500 ml of mineral water, and for 6 liter bottle it is 6000 ml.

The correct list is:

For 1.5 liter bottle
150 gram brown rice
15 gram sea salt
45 gram brown sugar
1500 ml mineral water

I hope this clarifies. And best of luck with your EM cultivating!

hello.very helpfull article about homemade EM.However, how long the EM solution lasts before LABs die?you said also that we can drop it into the soil.but can we drop it into a nutrient solution for hydroponic applications as well(static water)?the bacteria would die or survive to the nutrient content in the nutrient solution?

--> Hello, thanks for your comment. From my limited understanding, EM could last from a year or more in well-kept conditions. To store unused EM, you could refrigerate the solution. This will put the microbes into 'sleep mode' or dormancy. To re-activate the microbes, you could use lukewarm water 37-38C (98.6-100F), some sugar or starch. If you want to store them at room temperature, mix in about 1:1 ratio of brown sugar or molasses. You may see some bubbles. When stored in fully concentrated molasses, the microbes can last for almost forever. Which is one reason why laboratory-made EM stays good for a long time. (I actually talked a little bit about it here in my other post: How to stop compost from smelling)

To give you a little more info, there is still some contrasting information about using molasses to stabilize or store the LAB / EM for longer shelf life. Molasses, due to its viscosity (resistance to flow or thickness), tends to wrap around the lab / microbes like a thick blanket or plastic wrap, giving them little to almost no air to breathe. This thus creates some funky anaerobic pockets in the mix. So some say it may not be ideal for long-term microbe storage.

Brown sugar, like the salt in salted fish, has osmotic pressure that locks out the water molecules so microbes have nothign to use for their processes (eating, breaking down food, releasing gases, etc). So they go into sleeping mode, giving us a longer shelf life. Some EM manufacturers believe though molasses is the only good food to activate and use for the EM (from the sharing of a reader I've had a chance to talk to). So to give you two sides of the coin for a balanced view, you could consider between molasses and brown sugar.

Regarding the hydroponic applications, I honestly don't know and have not tried it before. But it sounds like an interesting idea to experiment. Give it a try and let us know how it went. I hope this helps!

More info here:

Hi, is Himalayan pink salt and the pink salt that you mention in recipe #1 is the same thing?

--> Hi, yes! it is the same thing. Many sell it in organic food stores. You can also use Celtic salt.

How many times a week should I apply recipe#1 to my plants?

--> Thanks for your question. You can apply it once every two weeks. As this stuff is quite sour (with a pH < 3.6), you'd want to dilute it. Mix 5 ml to 1 liter water or 1 ml to 1 liter water. Some plants like it sour (e.g. blueberries) so you can adjust it to their needs. You can spray on leaves or pour into soil. I hope this helps!

The Lacto-Life site has a manual for LAB applications. You can check out here if you'd like:

https://www.lacto-life.com/_files/ugd/97e849_1c6d2d963a63407db5ba19608b237c1b.pdf

See page 24-33 for applications in gardening and composting.

They have also updated with the new manuals. You can see more here:

LACTO-LIFE MANUAL
LACTO-LIFE MANUAL, Onlineshops for ingredients, facebook link,

I hope this helps!

Hello I did the 1 :2 parts brown rive and water mix left it for.a week and there is considerable amount of black and white mold growing. DOD somthing fo wrong?

--> Hello thanks for your question. What container are you using? First, check that the container you are using is at minimum clean. This is to reduce the chances of other unwanted bacteria/mold growing, giving our lab a good headstart.

Also I want to ask where are you placing the jar? I'd say not to start off first at somewhere like outside or big air area, where you may know lots of other stuff are floating around 'eyeing' the food in the jar. I put mine in a small cabinet in the kitchen. Although in one or two batches there is some green mold, it is not significant.

Once your wanted microbe population in that small area gets more established, you can be less worried about the mold issue. There'll be little food and space for the other unwanted mold. At this point, you can use the same place (and even same containers, after light cleaning) to get your next batch started. The place where you place your jar may actually smells sour (takes some time to dissipate from my experience).

And lastly, when you smell a slightly sour smell (the lab is active), you can use the liquid. No need to wait too long, giving less time for other bac to develop. I hope this helps!

The shelf life of EM recipe #1 is short, if I add molases 1:1 into the solution, how many ml/liter water would you suggest I apply those solution to my pak choy plant? Thank you.

--> Thanks for your question. Hello thanks for your question. For pak choy plant, I don't have a lot of experience with it so I can't answer you directly, sorry about that. From a quick google search I did, seems like pak choy likes it around 6-7. So you could dilute it more with water to make it more suitable for them (as people share that adding molasses tends to bring the ph down some more). Regarding the shelf life, to use ingredients efficiently you could use the same rice (+ the liquid from previous batches) to make more brews, possibly 10 times, but after the 4th the taste does get a bit less strong. Experiment & let us know how it goes. I hope this helps!

hi! is there a video of these recipes on YouTube if not I'd suggest you make some it will be very helpful

--> Thanks for your suggestion! For recipe #1 you can check out here, he shares the recipe & making steps here:

How to make your own easy (no whey) probiotics LACTO (tutorial) - VLOG #008

For recipe #2 see this video:

How to Make EM1 - Effective Microorganism

On my side, I'll see what I can do to contribute my own video here. Thx again & Hope this aids visually!

I have a step-by-step quick start guide with pictures here if you'd like a look: How to compost in a city apartment less mess less smell. (See 'Step 1 Quick-start guide: Bokashi composting').

(Update Jun 11 2022): Hi again, I will try my hands at making videos again. Will let you know once done. How is your EM bokashi going so far?

what is the difference between EM and mycorrhizae and does it compliment in the soil?

--> Hello, thanks for your question. Originally, Dr. Higa (the person who came up with this EM thing) created it using a combo of bacteria and yeast. There was a type of fungi in it but it was no longer used later in the combo, if I recall correctly. Mycorrhizae is a type of fungi, it lives symbiotically with the roots of plants, making bigger nutrients easier to absorb for them. It's an interesting thought, but I'm not sure if EM and mycorrhizae would compete or compliment each other in the soil. You could experiment and let us know the results. I hope this helps!

Does rosemary extract or oregano extract (home made) kill lacto bacteria?

--> Hello, thanks for your question. Interesting! And honestly, I do not know the answer to this. What's a reason that you relate the herbal extracts and the lacto bacteria or is it just a random thought? Possibly, you could take it to the test. I'll try if I have a chance to get my hands on the extracts. And how did you make them at home, btw? Let me know the results if you do carry it out. See you again next time.

I currently run a 100% organic poultry farm. Rosemary and oregano are already given daily as antibiotics. I'm getting ready to give them an EM. We need to know if it destroys this bacterium. Can it be tested?

--> Thanks for sharing again. Oh cool, I didn't know that. Roughly, you could design some small tests to see if the bacterium is alive. One I think is to mix the extracts with the EM, then spray some of that on rice bran in an airtight box (keep in warm dark place). Like the EM test we've described in the post above, if you notice some white mold on top, then it may suggest the bacterium is still alive. Another one you could try is the smell test. Mix the extracts with EM, then after some days, if you notice still a sour smell in the mix (assuming that the scent of rosemary and oregano is not too overpowering), it may be a sign the EM is still there. And lastly, you could mix the herbal extracts + EM + milk. I guess that if the milk still separates, then it may be still working. In a more fancy way, you could take it to a lab test with the appropriate equipment near you for more accuracy. In any case, these are some simple, low-cost ways I could think of. Not sure if it works, but you could consider trying out some. Let me know the results if you do. Keep us posted and good luck. See you again next time.

Hello again, just out of curiosity and as a brief follow up, did you try any ways to test it? Did it work or not quite work? Or how was the result from your experience? Let us know by any chance if you could, thanks.

This is amazing! Thank you. What if you want to use kelp? What would the recipe be? And could you use kelp and milk together and they would be sewerage batches?

--> Hi thanks you for your questions and kind words! Really interesting questions. But honestly I don't yet have the answers to them. Let me try to see how it goes and search around. I'll let you know the results if I find anything. If you decide to try it out, please let me know how it goes. See you again next time!

Hey again, how are you doing today. So to get back to your question on using kelp, I remember just now that someone has shared that kelp is usable for feeding the microbes, as it contains the minerals they'd like. I am not sure if the mixture of milk and kelp would would turn it into sewerage batches. But though for some people after collecting the separated whey water, they mix in a drinking yogurt called Yakult. This is for a double-power concoction. There is some milk and dextrose sugar in the drinking yogurt. So... I guess if there's a bit of salt or sugar traces left in the whey, mixing with the drinking liquid, it could possibly be similar to mixing milk + kelp to some degree on a fundamental level (although I'd guess kelp contains a bit more mineral variety types than just salt).

With that being said, milk is a powerhouse on its own for the microbes to enjoy and kelp is also not bad. You could try mixing & matching if you like and share with us the results. I will have a try sometimes to see the results or how much it would need. I have to find kelp first here. Was also thinking of cassava (full of starch) as the feed. Anyway, have a fun experiment! See you again next time.

Hello... first, thanks for sharing this detail info. But I wanna ask you if I can use the milk box (pre-washed) instead of jar so it can be dark without being placed in cabinet. Because I plan to place it beside my refrigerator to keep it warm. Thanks.

--> Hello, thanks for your kind words! Yes, I think it is not a bad idea at all, Just Some things I thought about to share with you is: just to make sure you can at least see or smell what's happening inside the milk box (is it sour yet, are there any bubbles, any unwated molds developing -> so you can take action and use it in time). Second is make sure the air around or near the refrigerator is to a degree or at minimum level clean (e.g. not too many dusts or contams flying around), giving the good microbes we want a good chance to grow. You could use a breathable cloth or cheesecloth or thin towel to cover the box head just to be safe, if that's not too overkill :D I use a sink filter for mine. Works great and cheap. Lastly, assuming you just pre-wash it with water, I think it'll be fine. Just avoid using soap or strong chemicals of any kind. Although I think you could just leave it as is as the microbes could eat and consume the milk drops. Please go ahead and experiment with it and share with us if you'd like. I hope this helps!

Share or pin this post!

how-to-make-effective-microorganism-homemade-three-recipes-pin

Cover image source