Homemade Compost Tea Bags

by Matt
(United States)

Are all the ingredients in your tea recipes supposed to be in the compost tea bag or should they be left to float around in the liquid?

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Feb 11, 2012
Compost Tea Bags
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hey Matt,

I prefer to put the compost inside a compost tea bag and allow the remaining ingredients to float about freely, however, there are no hard and fast rules to this. Just make sure you strain your tea before trying to run it through a sprayer. If you're doing a soil drench you may want to ixnay the bag all together.

Let me know what you choose to do.

Feb 11, 2012
Compost Tea Bags
by: Matt

I decided to put compost, rock dust, and kelp meal mixed up in the tea bag then add molasses and liquid kelp to the water.

Does that sound ok?

Feb 11, 2012
Homemade Compost Tea
by: Compost Junkie Dave

If anything, I'd recommend the opposite. Instead of putting everything into the bag, I would prefer to put them all directly into the water without the bag. You want to allow everything to move around and mix well. The agitation and bubbles hitting the compost, etc. help to knock the microbes from the compost particles.

Feb 11, 2012
Question About Homemade Compost Tea
by: Matt

Another quick question.

I've put everything in free floating before and it seems to settle to the bottom, not a big deal other than it doesn't seem to get as aerated. In my mind, it would make more sense to suspend a tea bag directly above the air flow so ingredients are constantly being exposed to air circulation. I use a very loose-knit undershirt as a tea bag, is this ok?

Keep in mind I am new to compost tea.

Feb 11, 2012
Compost Tea Bag for Homemade Brew
by: Compost Junkie Dave

What type of brewer are you using? Can you send me a picture of your setup?

You should have enough air going through your system that it keeps most of your ingredients fairly well mixed.

Let's do the tried and tested method to start - Put your compost inside your tea bag (I much prefer pantyhose over a shirt, however, I don't know the exact knit of your shirt, so I'm left making assumptions). As for the rest of the ingredients, allow them to free-float.

Re your molasses, premix it with a little hot water so it dissolves and doesn't just settle to the bottom of the brewer. If your molasses is anything like mine, it's incredibly thick and sinks right to the bottom of the brewer.

Looking forward to your reply.

Feb 11, 2012
Homemade Compost Tea Brewer
by: Matt

Homemade setup, aquarium pump with two hoses and two air-stones. Seems like enough air. I haven't had it go anaerobic yet and have brewed about 20 times as it's part of my regular watering plan. That being said I don't know if it's powerful enough to keep dirt, compost, and rock dust off the bottom. Do I need to upgrade?

Below is a picture of my setup...

homemade compost tea bag

Feb 11, 2012
Homemade Compost Tea & Aerobic Debate
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Ah, the photo definitely helps. Thanks.

Here's the deal - if you'd asked me this question 2 days ago, I would have said you will never get "enough" oxygen into your system using those aquarium stones; BUT two days ago, I had another member send me some information regarding aerated compost teas versus none aerated compost teas, and she basically said all of this talk about aeration is hype.

To quote her - "Scientists put forward a good case for aerated teas, as do the manufacturers of the equipment. However, at least three University Extensions - Cornell, Maine and Washington - maintain that non-aerated works just as well, and is in fact better in other ways. The main reason that there is little difference in effectiveness seems to be that there is not enough oxygen in the SOIL to support the huge bacterial population of the tea. There is rapid die-off which stabilizes at about the same levels found in non-aerated tea."

Needless to say, until I have a chance to read all of the research she has sent me, I'm going to recommend you upgrade to a larger pump for your brewer. At the very least, you'll increase the agitation in your brewer and be able to rip more microbes from the compost and deposit them into your tea.

I will discuss this aerobic issue in more detail over the next couple weeks. I need to do more digging first though. Stay tuned to our blog, emails, and Facebook for updates...

By the way, how much dirt and compost are you using? Where are you getting this dirt?

Feb 11, 2012
My Homemade Compost Tea Ingredients
by: Matt

At this moment, I am using EB Stone compost (supposed to be top quality) which has things in it I wouldn't normally use (bat guano, composted chicken manure, mushroom compost) plus all the other usual stuff. Normally, I use my own compost but don't have any that's completely done. I live in Seattle and it's cold right now. I am careful to make sure my personal compost is completely done before I use it.

Rock Dust:
I make my own rock dust. I go to the beach and get 3 rocks of different composition making sure they are in the tide line. Then I get a couple more from my own forested yard. I use a rotor hammer and make dust from all the rocks and mix them together.

Black strap, un-sulfured. I add this to boiling water then add boiling water to the brewer. The reason I add boiling water to the brewer is cause I use rain water and it normally starts at 40 degrees, I like to give it a jump start up to 70 before I add any other ingredient.

Kelp Meal:
Norwegian Kelp from the north sea. Local supplier says it's tested to be the best and that's all they stock now.

Liquid kelp:
Some organic no name but also from Norway.

I don't always add dirt but when I do it's from different areas in my yard. It has anything from decomposed Douglas fir needles, ceder debris, bamboo leafs, clay, sand, soggy wet land dirt. I have a heavily forested lot.

I used to use a product called "earth tonic", can't remember who makes it but it seemed to work well; no proof other than it produced lots of foam and is intended for making tea. Speaking of foam, I've heard claims that good compost tea should develop a foam on top, any truth to this?

As you can see I pride myself on learning to do things on my own. Anyone can go to the local hydro store and get a compost tea mix. I would love to learn the in's and out's and develop my own method with help from other sources (that's you).

Thanks for your help. I've already learned a lot and am looking forward to learning more.

Feb 11, 2012
Homemade Compost Tea and Foam
by: Compost Junkie Dave


Matt, you're a true Compost Junkie! That's incredible. Thanks so much for breaking all of this down and teaching me a thing or two.

First of all, I'd love to see a video of you making your own rock dust. I have a buddy who is in love with all of these really neat milling machines specifically for creating rock dust to remineralize soil. They're pretty wild!

Check out this video - Rotary Collider Mill

Let's see if I can add anything to your post...

Re the foam - this is taken directly from The Compost Tea Brewing Manual - "The presence of foam on the surface of tea is considered a positive sign, but just means there are free proteins, amino acids or carbohydrates present. Foam can be suppressed by using organic surfactants, such as vegetable oil (not olive or canola oil!)"

Hope this shines a little light on the subject.

Thanks so much for this great conversation.

Feb 11, 2012
Tea Bags and such...
by: Gene Fish Gene Fish


Thanks for your POST. It was like reading my own mind. We should be neighbors.

DAVE : I am looking forward to reading your findings re:AIR or NO AIR. I tend to go w/ the "hype lady" & her findings.

For now I will stick W/ my "bath tub" Gin. Thanks to you & your GREAT help I am making some changes and additions. For instance, 'HORSE STUFF" & kelp from the beach [Imperial Beach, Calif.]. Last year, I washed the kelp. Water did not KILL plants/nothing would grow in the sand [salt].

I start my "bath tub gin" after ALL the ingredients go through the chipper. I am now putting the "tub brew" [5 gal] back in to the tub[over the mulch] three times. I am getting a darker color w/ a "good" smell. Over night or all day will fill the [5gal] bucket. Dumping "tea Gin" from one bucket to another I get some foam.
I have my eye on a 50 gal. drum & a small compressor.{ air OR no air ?).

Feb 13, 2012
Air / No Air and Compost Tea Shelf Life

Hello Compost Junkie,

I would like to ask for your opinion on compost used for tea. I have been using rabbit manure because I read it is very compatible with Trichoderma, a beneficial fungus for plants.

What happens if we add commercial trichoderma to worm casting in process, and we use the compost for brewing compost tea?

What is your opinion on low pH (around 4.5) as a method to increase shelf life of aerated compost tea?

Could you comment on Mycorrhiza added to compost tea after brewing?

Thanks for all your help,



Comment from Dave - Sergio, I am going to move your comment to it's own thread. Please stay tuned to our blog for details.

Feb 14, 2012
Compost Tea Bags
by: Chris

I've heard paint strainer bags make great tea bags....i use the one gallon bag from home depot and so far so good. it takes the need for straining out of the picture but i'll still do this if i want to use it as a foliar. Here's a picture of my setup...i use a commercial air pump with a 8.5" round airstone. Lots of bubbles!

Now that i'm starting to flower, i'll be experimenting with this new tea additive called insect frass...supposed to make a great fungal tea and has many other benefits...has anyone tried this?

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPad App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPad App

Feb 22, 2012
Insect Poop and Compost Tea
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hey Chris,

I love the pictures. Thanks for including them.

Re the paint strainer, yes, that can definitely double as a compost tea strainer. I don't recall the specific mesh size you want to maintain on your filters, but when I get back to my house, I'll double check them for you. You would hate to accidentally strain off some of your larger microbes.

Re the insect frass, I've never heard of it. It's insect poop, right? Where did you buy your bag-O-insect poop? How much?

I'll write an article on this in the future and host a future podcast with someone in this field, but for now, here is a little info from Wikipedia on the frass...

Frass is the fine powdery material phytophagous (plant-eating) insects pass as waste after digesting plant parts. It causes plants to excrete chitinase due to high chitin levels, it is a natural bloom stimulant, and has high nutrient levels.

Frass is known to have abundant amoeba, beneficial bacteria, and fungi content. Frass is a microbial inoculant, also known as a soil inoculant, that promotes plant health using beneficial microbes. It is a large nutrient contributor to the rainforest, and it can often be seen in leaf mines.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frass

Mar 02, 2012
..i use a commercial air pump with a 8.5" round airstone.
by: Anonymous

Hi Chris,
I am just making my 55 gallon compost tea brewer and really enjoyed your post. What brand size commercial air pump did you use and where did you purchase the 8.5 round air stone? I just purchased a Pondmaster AP-100 pond and aquarium deep water air pump and although I have not used it yet I felt little air too make those lovely aeration bubbles needed for my brew. I wish I could get brand names from you and size of air pump motor please. Great photos of your brewer. I hope to send you mine when it is completed.

Mar 11, 2012
compost tea bag
by: Larry

I found a bag at Walmart that was designed to be used to wash ladies bras. It has a nylon zipper on either & the word "Tide" on the tag. It was about $4.00 and the mesh size is perfect for tea brewing purposes. It holds what I consider to be the right amout of my compost for brewing a 5 gallon bucket full of tea. Check it out.

Mar 11, 2012
Been there, done that!
by: Dave


I remember stealing something like that from my mom back in the day and using it to strain my compost tea....unbeknownst to her of course.

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