How to Choose The Best Compost Tumbler
Compost is an essential component of a thriving garden. Composting is easy to do, and there are lots of different ways to do it. Batch composters, or compost tumblers, are often the preferred way to compost since it reduces the risk of rodents. Here’s how we ranked the top compost tumblers on the market, to find you the best compost tumbler for the money.
The Best Compost Tumblers of 2020
Best Overall: FCMP Outdoor Dual Body HOTFROG Tumbling Composter
The biggest draw to a composting tumbler is the fact that it’s very easy to turn and mix, rather than having to do it by hand with a shovel or spade. Almost every 5 star review of this tumbler states how easy it is to turn. “Well made and it spins well. Best value for the money and easy to assemble,” is how one reviewer succinctly put it. This dual chamber tumbler is perfect for all users and very easy to assemble. The large openings make it easy to add and remove waste, and the deep grooves in the exterior make it easy to turn, and carry. Two chambers are so convenient, so that you can continually add waste to one side when you’ve got finished compost on the other side. The plastic is BPA free, and UV resistant so it’s not going to degrade over time. Being raised up so high, and the heavy duty construction makes it very durable and resistant to rodents, which is a huge draw. The powder coated legs also add to the durability. Being lifted so high makes it easy to access, but also makes it easy to get a bucket underneath the tumbler to collect any compost tea that may collect. This is the Cadillac of composter tumblers, and it shows. Excellent aeration, durable and rodent-proof, and dual chamber. The only downside is that it’s not the largest on the list, but since compost is generated so quickly, it doesn’t really matter.
Second-Best Compost Tumbler: EJWOX
Next up on the list is the EJWOX composter, another dual chamber compost tumbler with some great features. The two chambers are perfect so you can keep one side for finished compost and one for an in-process mix. That way, you never have to wait for fresh compost, you’ve always got some ready to go. This tumbler is superior to a classic compost bin primarily due to the two chambers, but also the fact that it sits on raised legs. This makes it very easy to spin, but also keeps it safe from rodents and squirrels. What makes this tumbler a little more unique is the internal aeration bar – it runs the length of the chambers adding oxygen right to the center of the compost. The aeration holes also make it easy to collect the compost tea. Compost tea is the liquid that builds up during the compost process, which you can drain into a bucket and use as fertilizer. It’s a perfect height, has thick, durable black walls to keep it nice and hot, and the powder coated steel frame is tough and sturdy. This is an awesome choice if you can find it in stock!
Best Large-Capacity Compost Tumbler: Spin Bin Composter
Ah yes, the Spin Bin. This behemoth of a compost tumbler is the best compost tumbler you can get your hands on if you generate a lot of waste and need a lot of compost. The Spin Bin composter has as massive 60 gallon capacity, so you can ensure you fit all your brown waste (leaves, twigs etc.) and your green waste in. This spin bin composter is simple in design, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It’s got slightly thinner walls than the first two tumblers on the list, but the black construction keeps it nice and hot. It also has an internal aeration bar to help the process along. The entire composter, from the bin itself to the stainless steel legs are made right here in the USA, and comes with a 2yr warranty. It’s fairly easy to use, but some reviewers have found it can be difficult to turn when it’s very full of compost. And unfortunately you sacrifice convenience of two chambers for the large capacity. Overall, if you need a massive compost bin that you can easily tumble, this is the compost bin for you.
Best Rodent-Proof Compost Tumbler: Miracle-Gro
The next compost tumbler on the list is this Miracle Grow dual composter. It has 2x 28 gallon capacity tumblers, for a substantial capacity. And it has a footprint of just 24″ x 37″ making it fairly compact as far as compost bins go. It’s super easy to use, and has these nifty stoppers that can lock the rotation so you don’t accidentally dump your compost everywhere if the wind picks up or you forget to close a door. It’s got a great durable design, BPA free plastic with thick black walls to keep the heat high and drive the composting process. The best part of this tumbling composter specifically is how tight the doors can close, and they also lock! This means you can safely compost without fear of rodents getting in and around your compost, garden and home. This composter also has all the other features you expect like sturdy stainless steel legs, internal aeration bars, and is super easy to turn. The only downside? It’s a little short, so you may be bending over more than the others on the list. But, all this in mind with the 2 year warranty, and you’ve got an awesome composter to consider.
Best Budget Compost Tumbler: FCMP IM4000
To round out our list of the best compost tumblers you can get, we have another FCMP model, but their budget version. It’s still a tumbler with dual chambers, but what makes it a little less convenient than our best overall composter is the single sliding door. Other than the fact that you spin both chambers at the same time and have a single door, you still get all the best features that FCMP promises with their other products. The thick, black BPA-free and UV resistant walls are made from recycled plastic, and will last for ages. The galvanized steel frame won’t corrode either. The dual chambers have a total capacity of about 37 gallons, which is a good size for most people’s garden. This is another one of these composters that is raised up to a comfortable height, which also means it’s harder for rodents to access. So long as you make sure you are giving this tumbling composter a spin every 2 or 3 days, you should get finished compost in 2-3 weeks. The two chambers allow you to have a finished batch of compost and also an in-process batch. Overall, this tumbler composter is an awesome budget choice to keep your garden firing at all cylinders.
What is a Compost Tumbler?
A compost tumbler is some sort of barrel of other container that is designed to turn or ‘tumble’ to sufficiently mix your organic discards (fruit and veggie scraps) and any compost that’s already developed. When you buy a tumbler, there are a few characteristics you want them to possess. Typically, you want one that’s dark coloured and opaque, which helps build the heat inside, driving fermentation of the compost. Ideally, the best tumbler will also have two compartments or chambers, so you can add fresh materials to one side, while ‘harvesting’ the other side once it’s finished.
Why should you use a tumbler vs a bin?
There are a few reasons why people often use compost tumblers, most notably because many compost tumbler brands advertise that they produce compost much faster than traditional methods, sometimes claiming compost in 2 weeks. Realistically, it will likely take longer than that, but it still is faster than your usual compost bins. The best composters should be producing compost in just a few weeks though.
It’s Easy to Mix and Turn
There is a very traditional method of composting called ‘hot pile’ where you build a massive pile of compost, and the microbes fermenting the vegetable matter produce a lot of heat. However, you should be constantly turning the compost to add oxygen in to keep the fermentation going and to produce a nice even compost. So, when your compost is in a compost bin or just a pile, it can be very hard to do this. A compost tumbler is super easy to turn while you walk by it in the garden, and it only takes seconds vs 20 minutes of hard work with a pitchfork.
It’s good to keep your compost hot
When the temperatures drop in fall and winter, composting will slow down naturally due to the lower temps. The thick walls and fully close-able doors of a tumbler helps keep the heat in during the winter as well, driving fermentation and fending off soil pathogens and weeds.
Many tumblers can also be moved around, brought inside a shed or the garage, or even just closer to the house to keep the temperature high. Ideally your bin will have a ‘compost tea collector’ which catches the liquid drips from the bin, but if not you’ll want to get something to catch the drips if you move it indoors.
It keeps your compost moist
The thick walls and closing chambers that keeps a compost tumbler running hot also function to keep the moisture in. If you’re just using a compost bin or a pile, moisture can escape out the top and slow the composting process. Tumblers keep the moisture in, and also allow the compost tea/leachate to seep out and to be used as fertilizer.
It just looks nicer
If you use one of those black compost bins or just a compost pile, it doesn’t really look that nice in your garden, and they can make a mess. Tumblers keep the compost contained inside, and if you really care, you can easily move it around when you have guests over.
They’re much more animal and rodent proof
The main reason people say they don’t compost is because they’re worried about wildlife and rodents invading their compost and gardens. Tumblers, with their closing doors and lifted design make it much more difficult for animals to access the compost which might smell good to them!
What to look for in a compost tumbler?
There are a few features you want your composter to have. While many people have just boxes or bins composting their waste, there are a few ways to improve your compost, and that’s usually with a tumbler. The best composters have a few features that speed up the composting process.
Thick, Dark Walls
You want to keep the compost hot, and dark for best results. So thick, black walls of your composter are the easiest way to keep the process rolling, quickly.
The main reason to go for a composter that is also a tumbler is to get away from the manual work of tossing and mixing your compost. Bin composters that sit on the ground don’t make it easy to mix, but being on legs allow you to mix the compost easily, move the tumbler around if you need to, and easily collect any compost tea that may be produced.
The best composter is one that you will use. And one of the best ways to get good use from your composter is to have one with two chambers. This way you can always have a ready to go batch while the other side of the chamber keeps composting away.
Tight, Closing Doors
The best way to ensure animals and rodents stay away from your garden and composter is to ensure the doors can close fully, and tightly. Composters that just have an open top and bottom allow rodents to come and go as they like. A composter with close-able, and even better, lockable doors keeps rodents out for good.
How do you use a compost tumbler?
Using a compost tumbler might seem quite simple at the outset – you put the vegetable and fruit waste in, turn it a couple times a week and ba-da-boom, you’ve got compost. In reality, there are a few ways to improve your compost and get the most out of your composting tumbler though.
The key to a great compost from your tumbler is a good ratio of brown waste and green waste.
Brown Waste vs Green Waste
Green waste is the fresh material from your kitchen – the banana peels, coffee grounds, lawn clippings and vegetable waste you produce. It’s got a lot of water in it, and typically has a lot of nitrogen as well, a key nutrient for plants.
Brown waste by contrast is drier and denser, and is usually things like the dried leaves you raked up, wood pellets, paper products and dead plants. This type of plant material has high amounts of carbon, is absorbent and adds a lot of substance to your compost.
How you formulate your compost mix really depend son what you’re using and generating, but you want to find a mix that works well. A typical ratio of brown to green is 2 parts brown waste to 1 part green waste.
Your compost may not smell amazing, but it shouldn’t smell bad. If it’s too wet and smells like methane, or you’re seeing maggots or a lot of flies, you need to add some more brown waste to add carbon to the mix and soak up the moisture. If it’s too dry and doesn’t seem active, you need to add some green waste.
If you’re really having trouble getting your compost going you can also add a compost starter to the process like you would when you’re making yogurt, beer or wine. It’s basically a product that contains the same microbes that you would find in your compost once it’s more developed. Adding starter just helps kick it off.
How often should I spin it?
A common question is how often should you tumble your compost tumbler. Some folks spin daily, but that can potentially add too much oxygen to the mix, and cool it down too much. It’s a good idea to spin whenever you add new material to make sure you’ve got a nice homogenous mix, but after that, every 3 days or so is a good average. Spin it more frequently when it’s really hot, spin it less frequently when it’s cooler.
Want to make your own Tumbler?