What’s Brewing? Podcast Episode 5:

What’s Brewing is a podcast all about compost tea hosted by Troy Hinke.

Troy Hinke served as Rodale’s Compost Research Specialist alongside the founder of Soil Foodweb Inc., Dr. Elaine Ingham. Troy now runs Living Roots Compost Tea, where he offers several services including consultations, compost sprays, and compost brewing, among others.

Episode five of a 10-episode series on compost teas, host Troy Hinke talks about compost tea brewers: types of brewers, what to consider when building or buying a brewer, and how to set up simple brewers.

Kinds of Compost Tea Brewers (00:59)

Brewers can range in shape and size from one gallon to a thousand-gallon volumes, and can be made from buckets, barrels, conical tanks, IBC totes, and stainless-steel tanks. Pretty much any container can probably be turned into a compost tea brewer.

When thinking of compost tea brewers, we want something simple, easy to clean, and easy to access. We want a container without any corners or pockets to make sure all areas are well-oxygenated. We want to have only smooth surfaces throughout to prevent the chances of leaving residue in cracks and nicks where anaerobic bacteria can breed, which would then affect future brews.

Easiest and Smallest Brewer (03:47)

The easiest and smallest size brewer to make or purchase is going a three to five-gallon bucket brewer. While this may sound small for anyone with more than a simple garden, take into Rodale was doing research with five gallons per acre using extract, which didn’t even have the same population density of microorganisms as compost tea does.

For the brew bag, a $2-4 elastic top paint strainer bag from the local paint supply store will do the job just fine. For the air pump, we can use a regular two to four outlet aquarium pump, which usually goes for around $20-30.

Five-gallon compost tea brewers are also available in the market, but they cost twice to quadruple the amount it takes to build your own.

“The easiest and smallest size brewer to make or purchase is going to be a three to five-gallon bucket brewer. And this may sound small for anyone with more than a simple garden, but take into consideration that when I was working at Rodale, we were doing research with five gallons per acre, and that was using extract, which didn’t even have the same population density of microorganisms as compost tea is going to have, so five gallons will go a long way.”

Troy Hinke

A Bigger Brewer (07:51)

For something bigger than five gallons, a 55-gallon food-grade plastic barrel can accommodate 15-55 gallons of compost tea. A faucet valve can be installed at the bottom of the barrel, but others make do with scooping out the compost tea from the top opening. As for the air pump, we want one with a 60L/min. capacity, which costs around $45-65. These pumps come with braided air hose, and we would want six to ten feet of them.

If 55 gallons still isn’t big enough, some people use IBC totes as compost tea brewers, and those can accommodate up to 250 gallons.

Conical Brewers (12:50)

Conical brewers are cone-shaped tanks that come in different sizes, from 15 gallons up to a thousand gallons. It’s advisable to keep the conical tank up off the ground on a stand to be able to just gravity feed out from the tank and into your spray.

In conical tanks, the air pump or air blowers are hooked to the bottom of the cone, which takes advantage of its shape by getting good airflow through the entire column of water without any dead spots starting from the bottom. Because both the valve and air pump are at the bottom, the same hose can be used to pump air into the compost tea as well as drain out the tea.

The only disadvantage to using a conical brewer is the difficulty of cleaning them, especially if there’s residue build up at the bottom of the smaller, 15 to 75-gallon tanks. Despite that, the quality of the compost tea from conical brewers is well worth the extra effort.

Quick Recap (16:58)

There are many types of compost tea brewers using any kind of material to use as the main body of the brewer. While there are many compost tea brewers that are commercially available,  anyone can build their own five to 55-gallon compost tea brewer without having to bust their wallet. That said, if you’re still unsure about which parts to get and how to assemble it, you can always reach out to Troy to help you out.

Learn More

Learn more about Troy Hinke and his work on compost teas over at Living Roots Compost Tea, Instagram, and Facebook!

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