So, you’ve made the decision to compost your food waste, but you need some help choosing a composter. You’re in luck! With a few questions answered, you’ll be on your way to finding the right model for your needs.

The best composter will fit with your lifestyle and your space. That’s why we recommend taking a close look at your situation before you buy. But before we get to that, let’s review the types of composters available.

Common types of composters

Stationary composters

Stationary bins are the composters most people are familiar with. You add food scraps and other compostable materials to the top, usually through an opening with a lid that locks into place to prevent rats and other pests from getting inside. After many months the waste turns into soil. Remove the finished material through a door located near the bottom. The beauty of stationary bin composters is that you can keep adding waste to the top while the material matures, harvesting mature compost from the bottom at the same time.

The reason many stationary composters take months to make compost is because they’re not often aerated. Reaching inside a tall box to flip compost isn’t easy, but turning compost helps mix and aerate the materials inside, speeding up the process. Some stationary composters have built-in aeration to help remedy this situation. Homemade composters made from pallets or another material also address this dilemma by having one or more removable or open sides.

Stationary bins work best if placed on soil.


Composters like the EcoKing 110 (left) and the Aeroplus 3-Stage Composter (right) allow you to continually add waste to the top of the unit and harvest finished compost from the bottom.


Compost tumblers

Also called ‘batch’ composters, compost tumblers consist of a rotating drum that you spin by cranking a handle or the unit itself. They contain one or more compartments that you fill and then close off, waiting for the batch to mature before emptying it for use in your yard or garden. Compost tumblers outpace stationary composters thanks to the aerating and mixing that happens when you turn the unit.

Having two chambers in your compost tumbler allows you to process one batch while still having a place to put your food scraps. The Jora JK 270 is one of the most popular dual-chamber composters available.

Compost tumblers like the Jora JK 270 (left) and the EZ Compost Wizard Jr (right) aerate and mix your compost, making the entire process faster.


Worm composters

Worm composters or vermiculture composters use the power of worms to convert your food waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. While there are often worms in continuous use composters, worm composters have a higher concentration specifically designed to munch away on your food scraps. Worm bins may be tiered to ensure you always have somewhere to add material, or they may be continuous flow like the composters described above.

eartheasy vermicomposter

A tiered worm composting bin like this dual-tray worm composting system directs worms to move between layers as compost matures, making harvesting easy.

The Worm Factory 360 (left) is another example of a tiered worm composter. The Hungry Bin (right) uses the continuous flow model.

Related: Worm Composting Basics for Beginners


Food waste digesters

If you aren’t interested in making compost for a garden but you really want to stop putting organic waste in the garbage, a food waste digester is your friend. Digesters consist of a lower basket that you bury below ground level, and an upper, cone-shaped bucket that concentrates the sun’s rays. One of the most well-known digesters, the Green Cone, has double walls that heat up, which helps the oxygen cycle to the lower chamber.

Food waste digesters are connected to the ground below via the openings in the basket. Microorganisms pass through these openings and take care of 90 percent of your food waste. The remainder soaks into the ground below as liquid. In theory, you never have to turn or empty your unit, because it ‘digests’ whatever you put into it.

If you want compost for your garden, but you’d like to take care of the remaining food scraps that can’t go into your composter, consider adding a food waste digester to your yard. These amazing inventions can process bones, leftovers, and even some pet waste.

Green Cone food waste digester

The Green Cone reduces your food waste to virtually zero using the power of microorganisms.


Countertop food waste processors

Newer on the scene, countertop processors don’t technically compost your food waste. Instead they chop and dehydrate whatever you put inside, transforming kitchen scraps into usable fertilizer. They work very well in climates where winter composting halts due to cold temperatures: you can save up the processed waste and add it to your garden come springtime (but you’ll have to put it somewhere in the meantime). They’re also great for apartment dwellers. Save the odorless waste and pass on to friends or local farmers.

The Food Cycler is made by the same company as the Vitamix blenders. It was also one of the first countertop processors on the market.

The Food Cycler chops and dehydrates your food waste in 3 to 6 hours, transforming it into fertilizer.

Related: Complete Guide to Composting

Things to consider when choosing your composter

Now that you’re familiar with the most common types of composters, ask yourself three important questions:

  1. What do you want to compost?

    What you compost will largely determine the size and type of your composter. For example, will you be composting mostly food waste from your kitchen? Or do you have a big yard full of grass clippings, shrub trimmings, and a pile of garden waste that you need to manage?

  2. What will you do with your compost?

    Some people compost to reduce the amount of food waste they put in the trash. Others make compost for lawns or gardens, because compost is the single-best fertilizer you can add to your soil. Knowing the difference is important: if you don’t want to deal with compost because you live in an apartment or lack the time to garden, there are still composters that will help you deal with your waste.

  3. Where do you plan to compost?

    If you have limited to zero outdoor space you can still compost, but the type of composter you choose will be very different than a composter meant for outdoors. Some composters are ideal for apartment-dwellers or homes with a balcony or garage. Others require a larger outdoor space and access to the ground below.

Once you’ve got your answers, our infographic will help guide you to the perfect composter.

how to choose a composter infographic

Which composter is best for you?

Let’s break down that infographic above. Here are those three questions again, followed by the most common answers—and our recommendations.

What do you want to compost?

I’ll be processing only kitchen waste.
Great! Kitchen waste is the easiest to compost. For composters designed to handle kitchen waste alone, look to a smaller model with good aeration. This includes some enclosed bins, most tumblers, worm composters, food waste digesters, and countertop processors.

I’ll be processing kitchen and yard waste.
You’ll need something bigger that can handle the added volume. The benefit of adding yard waste to your compost is upping the carbon content, which can help drive the composting process. Look at tumblers and continuous use bins bigger than 10 cubic feet.

What will you do with your compost?

Actually, I don’t want compost. I just want to deal with my food waste.
Thanks for working to reduce your footprint. If you really don’t want to bother with compost, the best solution is a food waste digester. It will get rid of your food waste—including bones, pits, peelings, and everything in between—without leaving compost behind. These are particularly good in urban areas where they have withstood all manner of vermin. (Note: they aren’t bear proof).

I want my compost for my yard or garden.
You’ve learned that compost is the single best plant fertilizer and soil conditioner and you want to preserve that goodness. We hear you. Choose from any of the composters listed above other than the food waste digester.

Where do you plan to compost? What kind of space do you have?

I’m going to compost inside my home.
If you’re comfortable with worms, consider a worm bin. These can go in your garage or even in your kitchen. In Europe worm bins have even designed into furniture. Keep in mind that worms prefer moderate temperatures, so if you live in an area with seasonal cold weather, you’ll need to move them to a warmer location when the mercury dips. If worms aren’t your thing, a countertop food waste processor is another great option for dealing with food waste indoors.

I’m going to compost on a large balcony or inside a garage.
If the weather doesn’t get too cold in the winter, you can consider a larger worm bin. Depending on your space, you may also be able to fit a small compost tumbler. Tumblers do an excellent job of transforming food waste into compost in a short time frame.

I’m going to compost in a small yard with some green space.
You have a lot of options available. Green space means you can try a continuous use composter, because most of these models need access to the ground below for drainage. Choose a size appropriate for your family and lifestyle (more on this below).

I’m going to compost in a large suburban or rural yard.
Lucky you. You can take your pick of all the composters, making sure to choose one that will accommodate the materials you hope to compost. Going for a larger model isn’t always the best option if you don’t make enough waste to fill it. Instead, consider a dual chamber tumbler. This will provide you with ample space and a faster turnaround time.

More composting questions answered

What size composter do I need?

Once you’ve determined what style of composter you prefer, choosing the right size is the next step. For a family of 1-4 people, we recommend a composter that will process at least 4.5 cubic feet. If you plan to add garden waste or yard trimmings, a capacity of 15 to 20 cubic feet would offer ample space.

Do I have to turn my compost?

Not necessarily. Although turning compost makes decomposition go faster, there are other ways to aerate your compost. Poking your compost with a rake handle or mixing with a digging fork can help introduce air spaces into your pile. You can also add materials with built-in air spaces, such as cardboard egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, and unbleached corrugated cardboard.

How do compost tumblers work so quickly?

Compost tumblers come with a built-in turning mechanism that helps aerate and mix your pile. This gives the microbes who digest your food waste the air they need to work efficiently. At the same time, compost tumblers are sealed units that retain the heat generated during composting. This helps them work more quickly to break down whatever is tossed inside.

Related: Compost Tumblers vs. Compost Bins

How can I select the best kitchen compost bin?

Use the guide above to determine what type of composter suits your space and lifestyle. If you plan to compost outside and want to extend the life of your composter, consider locating your unit in a garage (this works for worm bins and tumblers) or under a roof or overhang (for enclosed or continuous composters).

What is better for growing, compost or worm castings?

Both compost and worm castings provide nutrients that garden plants need to thrive. Currently there isn’t a strong consensus on which one is better for home growing. If your garden lacks calcium or phosphorous, worm castings tend to have higher amounts of these elements. But if your garden needs overall conditioning and a balanced boost of essential nutrients, compost does the job.

Which is better, composting or vermicomposting?

That all depends on you. As described above, the method you choose largely depends on what you’ll be composting and where. Worms can process about half their weight in food waste per day. If you fill a worm bin with one pound of worms, they’ll ideally be able to process half a pound of food waste every day. If your family makes more waste than this or plans to compost yard and garden waste, a standard composter would be a better option.

Which machine is best for making organic compost?

All composters will make organic compost if you add organic materials. A compost tumbler will usually produce compost faster than an enclosed bin (continuous use) composter.

What are the best composters on the market?

For a comprehensive answer to this question, check out our article on this topic, The Best Compost Bins and Tumblers Reviewed.

Making your final choice

A good quality composter will last your family for 10 to 20 years. That’s why choosing a composter requires thought: you want a unit that will work for many years without costly changes. With a little consideration, you can find the best fit and dive right in. Whatever you choose, you’ll help divert food waste from the landfill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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