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Eyes on Fire

Guy Smiley
Sep 17, 2013

A Compost Tea Recipe To Boost Plant Growth

Are you searching for that ideal compost tea recipe?

Are you unsure which ingredients are used to feed which type of microbe?

Whatever the case, you need not worry; once you're done reading the information on this page, you'll be able to cater your compost tea recipe to your individual plant's needs.

Did you know that the different plants in your garden, may need different types of compost tea?

That's right, annual plants, such as vegetables, prefer a more bacterial-dominated soil, whereas, trees prefer a more fungal-dominated soil. Therefore, you would want to brew compost tea that is more bacterial-dominated for your vegetables, and tea that is more fungal-dominated for your trees.

To complicate things a little further, the type of tea you make, may also depend on the type of soil in your garden; so you must consider two variables: plant type and soil type. This may seem a little confusing at the moment, but just keep reading and soon it will all make sense.

sunflower after compost tea There is one thing to always remember when working with any compost tea recipe: mother nature is very forgiving. If, by accident, you apply a fungal-dominated tea to a bacteria-loving plant, you're not going to harm it; However, your plant won't benefit as much as if you had applied a bacterial-dominated tea.
Okay, let's get started...

Various Teas for Various Plant Types

If you know what type of plant your are growing, than it's easier to determine which ingredients to include in your compost tea recipe.

Type of Plant Type of Tea
Most brassicas Highly Bacterial
Vegetables, Grasses Moderately Bacterial
Berries Balanced Bacteria to Fungi
Deciduous Trees Moderately Fungal
Coniferous Trees Highly Fungal

What if your specific plant is not included in the above list? Simply find the type of plant that is most similar to the one you want to grow, and use it as a guide. For example, if you want to apply compost tea to a bed of perennial flowers, we would suggest using a more balanced (equal bacteria to fungi) compost tea recipe.

Without going into too much detail about specific teas for specific soil types, we would just like to point out two important things:

First, if you're growing any type of plant in really sandy soils, you would benefit from applying fungal-dominated teas. Fungi help to build soil structure, which is always needed in sandy soils. Otherwise, we suggest you cater your tea to the type of plant, as shown in the table above.

Second, don't be afraid to experiment. If you apply several bacterial-dominated teas, and nothing seems to happen, try a fungal tea for a couple applications.

The Most Important Ingredient

The most important ingredient in determining which type of tea you produce is your compost. Your compost will ALWAYS be the biggest factor in determining whether you brew a balanced tea, or a tea dominated by bacteria or fungi. If your compost doesn't have any fungi in it, and you don't add any, then there is no way your finished compost tea will have fungi in it.

So how do you make each type of compost?

Each of the different types of compost are determined by their initial ingredients. Bacterial-dominated compost begins with materials that have a lower carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N); whereas, fungal-dominated compost begins with materials that have a higher C:N. Said another way, the more fungi you want in your compost, the more woody materials you are going to have to include.

use straw for compost ingredient For example, bacterial compost can be made using 30% dry straw (brown material), 45% alfalfa (green material), and 25% manure; whereas, fungal compost can be made using 45% dry straw, 30% alfalfa, and 25% manure. If you would like to create a more balanced compost, we suggest using 35% dry straw, 35% alfalfa, and 30% manure. To learn more about proper carbon to nitrogen ratios, please visit our compost ingredients page.
If you're having trouble creating fungal-dominated compost, please see our expert tips at the bottom of the page.

3 Basic Compost Tea Recipes

Please note, the amounts indicated in the following recipes are intended for a 5-gallon brewer.

Balanced Compost Tea Recipe

1.5 pounds of balanced compost
(equal parts bacterial to fungal biomass)
1.6 ounces of humic acids
1 ounce of liquid kelp*
1 ounce of soluble unsulphured black-strap molasses
*We've specified liquid kelp here, however, sometimes we like to add a tablespoon of kelp meal as well to provide surfaces for the fungi to attach too.
The black-strap molasses is great, because it naturally contains a number of beneficial minerals (e.g. potassium) that feed your microbes and soil.

Bacterial-Dominated Compost Tea Recipe

1.5 pounds of bacterial-dominated compost (vermicastings work well)
2 ounces of cane sugar
1 ounce of soluble kelp
Bacteria love simple sugars, so feel free to add in a teaspoon of maple syrup, or even white sugar.
Fungal-Dominated Compost Tea Recipe

2 pounds of fungal-dominated compost (see tips at bottom of page)
2 ounces humic acids
2 teaspoons of yucca extract*
1 ounce of liquid kelp
2 tablespoons of ground oatmeal
*We like to add yucca extract near the end of the brewing process, since it has a tendency to create a lot of foam. Also, you'll want to make sure your yucca doesn't have any preservatives, but does have a high saponin content.
Common Compost Tea Recipe Ingredients

Ingredient Feeds Ingredient Feeds
White Sugar Bacteria Maple Syrup Bacteria
Corn Syrup Bacteria Cane Sugar Bacteria
Molasses Bacteria/Fungi Fish Emulsion Bacteria
Fruit Pulp Bacteria/Fungi Fish Hydrolysate Fungi
Kelp Bacteria/Fungi Ground Oatmeal Fungi
Rock Dusts Bacteria/Fungi Yucca Fungi
Humic Acids Bacteria/Fungi Soybean Meal Fungi

Note - Fungi like to attach to the surfaces of various ingredients while they grow. Some of the above ingredients feed bacteria, and also provide surfaces for fungi to attach too (e.g. kelp).
Compost Tea Free Download
Five Free e-booklets

Interested in learning more about compost and compost tea?

What if we told you you're just one click away from being able to download five free compost e-booklets?

All you have to do is click on the Compost Tea and Vegetable Gardening booklet to the right and read our Free Goodies page.

A Few Fungi Tips from the Experts


If you want to increase the diversity of your compost tea, we suggest adding a cup or two of garden soil. Better yet, if your compost tea recipe calls for fungal compost, include a cup or two of soil from a nearby forest.
By adding these additional soils, you're ensuring your tea is inoculated with a wide range of soil microbes. These soils are like a biological catalyst, or compost tea activator.


When we want to ensure we've got fungi in our tea, we will brew it, and then add spores of mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi act as a wonderful inoculum to any fungal compost tea recipe. These fungi naturally form beneficial relationships with approximately 95% of all plant species. They aid in nutrient transfer to plants, and help to create better soil conditions. Here is a great site if you'd like more information on mycorrhizal fungi.

We can't claim this last tip to be our own. It comes from the incredible book, Teaming with Microbes, by authors, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis. In it, Lowenfels and Lewis suggest you "give fungi a head start." Since it can be difficult to get fungi to multiple (they do grow in size, just rarely in number) during the compost tea brewing process, the authors recommend growing them prior to the brewing process.
To do this, you'll want to moisten a couple cups of compost (just damp, not dripping wet), and then put it in a light-resistant container. Then grind up some simple proteins (fungal foods), such as oatmeal, and mix them in with the moist compost. Cover partially with a lid, and then place in a warm, dark area. We typically put ours under our sink, or above our fridge in a cupboard. After about 3 days, you'll remove the lid, and find a bunch of fungal mycelia throughout the compost. You can now use this compost to brew your fungal tea.


Don't accidentally filter out your fungi (and nematodes) when straining your tea. When filtering your tea, be sure your screen is as close to 400 micrometers as possible. Paint strainers, from your local hardware store, work quite well for this function. Avoid using socks or pillowcases, since their fibers are too tight.
Our Ultimate Compost Tea Recipe

Please note, the amounts indicated in the following recipe are intended for a KIS 5-gallon brewer.

- 1/4 cup vermicompost (worm castings)
- 1/4 cup fungal-dominated compost
- 1/4 cup garden soil
- 1/4 cup forest soil
- 1.5 ounce of soluble unsulphured black-strap molasses
- 1 ounce of soluble kelp
- 1 ounce humic acids
- 1 ounce fish hydrolysate
- 3 tablespoons rock dust

[Updated Dec. 2011] - Due to the large variety of organisms and food sources in this tea, you will want to be absolutely certain that you have adequate aeration (i.e. dissolved oxygen) in your brewing system. Please click on the above link to learn more about the importance of aeration when brewing compost tea.

White Punk on Dope

Organic AutoCob Guy
Dec 2, 2014
Well for giggles I went and looked at The Garden Tea Company web site and this is what they said:
How to Make Compost Tea

Best Location for Your Brewer:

  • Place your brewer on a flat and level surface located near a power outlet.
  • Choose a location that can tolerate a few spills.
    • Brewing compost and garden teas can be messy at times.
  • Provide a stable environment such as a basement, barn, garage or shaded location outdoors.
    • If possible choose a location that can maintain a temperature between 55°-80°F.

  • Always start with pure filtered water
  • Microbes in compost are highly sensitive to anti-microbial agents found in many municipal water sources.
    • Chlorine, fluoride, chloramine and fluoramine tare some of the potential additives in many municipal water sources.
  • If you have a municipal water source you can at the least evaporate as much chlorine as possible.
    • This can be achieved by allowing your water to sit in an uncovered bucket / brewer overnight or you can aerate your water for 15-30 min prior to use.
  • Chloramine & Fluoramine cannot be evaporated and are best removed thru filtration. Please note that not all filters are capable of removing these harmful chemical agents. Fresh, clean rainwater can be a great alternative to the tap.
    • Humic acids added to water (prior to your sensitive compost) will help to bind these agents and immobilize their harmful affects.
    • Good quality compost contains sufficient humic substances to assist in mitigating the harmful affects of the above-mentioned additives. More on this in the section on compost extracts.

  • The ideal temperature range for brewing compost tea is between 55° - 80°F.
    • An aquarium heater can be used to maintain constant temps for more precision brewing and reduced brew times.
  • High temperatures can kill or limit a diversity of microbes.
  • Low temperatures will slow microbial activity and limit a diversity of microbial growth.
    • Do not to exceed a water temperature of 95°F
  • Brewing in a temperate environment is a pretty safe option
  • Match your water temperature to the temperature of the soil or leaf zone where the tea is to be applied.
    • The microbes that are cultivated in your compost or garden teas are more likely to remain active when applied to the soil or a leaf surface that is a similar temperature as your tea.
Ensuring A Quality Extraction:

In brewing compost teas we are attempting to transfer the multitudes of beneficial organisms and soluble nutrients from the compost into a solution that can be easily applied to soil, potting/ planting mixes and plant surfaces. The compost serves as a starter agent, much like yeast is to bread. Water is the medium and the food sources serve as a catalyst feeding active and dormant organisms present in the mature compost. Aerating and agitating the compost in good quality water and providing select food resources will help to promote the growth of the target organisms present in the compost.

Extraction & Brewing Methods:

I. Compost Extract:

Compost extracts can be made in minutes and applied immediately, making them very convenient if there is not enough time to brew aerated tea. Compost extracts will provide a similar concentration of the microbes found in your starter compost. You can use compost extracts as a soil drench, root dip when transplanting or to inoculate; compost heaps, potting and planting mixtures.

  • Fill your brewer with 4 – 5 gallons of chlorine free water or aerate municipal water as described above.
  • Place 2 – 4 cups of compost into a 400-micron filter bag
    • The filter bag will help to keep your brewer cleaner, but is not necessary if you are only stirring the compost in a bucket or barrel.
  • Place the compost bag into your vessel and aerate, gently massage or stir for 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Remove the filter bag and use as desired
    • Energize by stirring rhythmically, alternately clockwise and counter-clockwise forming a vortex for 1 min before changing directions.
Compost extracts can provide the necessary humic acids to help bind-up and immobilize the harmful affects of chemical agents found in some municipal water sources. If you are using a compost extract for the humic acids to help with your municipal water then follow these steps.

  1. Make a compost extract as mentioned above
  2. Remove the tea bag and discard the compost onto a compost heap or mix into soil.
  3. Use this liquid to brew a batch of aerated compost tea.
II. Aerated Compost Tea (ACT)

This method of brewing is also referred to as actively aerated compost tea (AACT) and will cultivate the greatest concentration of microbial life in your teas. ACT or AACT can be applied as a soil drench or a foliar spray.

  • Place the recommended amount of compost into a 400-micron filter bag
  • Place the compost bag into your bucket or barrel of chlorine free water and aerate
  • The compost bag can be removed after 12 - 24 hours
    • The bulk of beneficial organisms are now suspended in the water.
    • Do not squeeze or press the filter bag as you may force sediment thru the mesh that could clod your air-diffuser and/ or spray nozzles.
  • Add the recommended liquid or soluble foods sources
  • Brew your compost tea for the recommended minimum or maximum time and apply
III. Fertilizer / Garden Tea

Use this method for herbal, mineral or guano based fertilizer teas

Much like herbal teas, fertilizer tea can be made by soaking or aerating dried herbs, bat or seabird guano and/ or minerals such as rock powders or salts in chlorine free water to extract the many beneficial nutrients. Your options here are limitless.

  • Place the recommended amount of raw ingredients into a 100-micron filter bag or filter your tea after the ingredients have been mixed.
  • Place the bag or ingredients into a bucket or barrel of chlorine free water.
  • Stir for 10 min – 1 hour or steep and/ or aerate for up to 12 hours
  • The time your tea is allowed to steep will depend upon the ingredients used.
  • Use a PPM or TDS meter to measure the concentration of nutrients in your fertilizer teas (these can be purchased for under $20 at aquarium and some garden centers)
    • PPM meters measure the parts per million of a solution
    • TDS meters measure the total dissolved solids
  • The concentration of nutrients in your liquid tea will vary based upon ingredients used and your water source. Well water or rainwater may have more minerals than municipal water sources.
  • Remove the bag and apply tea as a soil drench
  • Do not squeeze or press the filter bag as you may force sediment thru the mesh that could stop up your air-diffuser and/ or spray nozzles.
What to do with the spent ingredients after making tea for your plants?

The spent compost, herbs, guano and/ or minerals can be added to a compost pile or worked into the top few inches of soil. The best parts of these ingredients have been depleted but the remnants will be a nice addition any compost pile.

Customize Your Compost Tea for Plant Types, Disease, or Pest

These are general guidelines; recipes may need to be adjusted according to active biology present in your compost.

  • All-purpose / Balanced Tea (equal Bacteria to Fungi biomass ratios):
    • This is the most effective tea for all types of plants and soils: Use on most vegetable crops, grasses and pastures, flower and herb gardens, berries, fruit trees or to manage some pest and pathogen outbreaks.
  • Fungi/ Humus Tea: Use on deciduous and conifer trees, orchards, vine crops shrubs, acid-loving plants, or to manage pathogen outbreaks. Fungi dominated teas can also be used to enhance the growth of moss.
  • Bacterial Tea: Use on brassica family crops or to help manage pests.
Brew Times:

  • All-purpose / Balanced Tea (equal Bacteria to Fungi biomass ratios): Brew for12 - 36 hours to encourage a more balanced life within the compost tea.
  • Bacterial Teas: Brew for 12 - 24 hours to encourage bacterial biomass.
  • Fungi/ Humus Teas: brew for 36 - 48 to encourage a fungal biomass. After 48 hours compost tea begins to express protozoa dominance, which mainly feed on bacteria.
You may use the minimum brew times if you are starting with a few quarts of a good quality compost tea from a previous batch. Think of this like a bread starter.

Eyes on Fire

Guy Smiley
Sep 17, 2013
yeah lmfao! its funny too because they say 100 micro bags they sell,but for their tea procedures you need a 400 micron they dont sell?! lmfao! all good but autos the temps are vastly different imo. an 80F tea? no thank you unless its cooler out.even then over the course on a heating pad instead of hitting it with a hard temp change or drenching. photos can handle that better usually. but 70-75 degrees will work perfect for you. imho 72 is really nice.75F and it'll usually hover around 73-74F. so set it on 75 and let it ride man. :)

Eyes on Fire

Guy Smiley
Sep 17, 2013
well certain times of year when the flora n fauna are hotter cooling them down can kill them certainly. 90 degrees or more if its surface stuff you wanna aviod that. but hoinestly if your digging to achieve these its cooler down there. so at 75-80 degrees would be fine. its about region and temp range and depth of harvesting microbes. but if deep or shaded and cooler keep the tea cooler if you can. surface stuff a little hotter like 80-85F. you can get a cheap hand held thermometer to test temp ranges on piles,compost,bins areas and digging stuffs in the earth. thats what Id do.


Worm Hunter .
Staff member
AFN Global Moderator
Aug 9, 2014
Mr @Eyes on Fire Here is a compost pile I have going just for microbes and fungi , it will be used for Compost tea , I have been a good Lad and studied hard , takes a bit of time for at all to sink in I can tell ya , :dizzy: But it has changed my way of thinking about building soil , I have my next lot on the go and with the knowledge I am gaining it can only be better . :thumbsup: I am also upgrading my pump and air flow set up , I know now I was under powered with the pump . :biggrin:

Eyes on Fire

Guy Smiley
Sep 17, 2013
Stellar stuff broseph no doubt about it man :D super stoked too!! yeah other than harder temp fluctuations most will stay viable for the most part. yeah good bubble snake is hard to get. either buy one or make one from PVC and/or plastic tube with holes in it LOL