The 10 Best Compost Tumblers

Updated March 18, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Compost Tumblers
Best High-End
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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you're trying to reduce your environmental footprint or you simply want a better garden, composting is a great way to deal with your biodegradable waste. Simply take your food scraps, paper, and yard trimmings and dump them into one of these tumblers. Over time, nature will take its course, breaking it all down into a nutrient-rich mulch that your lawn and plants will absolutely love. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best compost tumbler on Amazon.

10. Suncast TCB6800

A galvanized steel frame and a vertically mounted, somersaulting barrel make the Suncast TCB6800 a handy option for adding, managing and removing a high volume of yard cuttings, leaf debris and other biodegradable materials by the pitchfork- or shovel-full.
  • six-and-a-half cubic feet capacity
  • latching lids at both ends
  • assembly is a bit tricky
Brand Suncast
Model TCB6800
Weight 33.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Algreen Terra

Raised well above the ground to deter rodents and other pests from raiding your decomposing vegetable matter before it can do its part for the next round of homegrown edibles and ornamental plants, the Algreen Terra can produce a considerable crop of organic mulch.
  • comes in multiple colors
  • integrated handles
  • may not withstand very heavy use
Brand Algreen
Model 82002
Weight 38.3 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Spin Bin 60

The Spin Bin 60 is a compact model that saves space in your yard or on the balcony. Its internal walls are ribbed for optimal mixing and, as a bonus, the manufacturer includes helpful instructions to make life easier for beginners.
  • dual agitator for better aeration
  • 20 drain slots to speed up process
  • impressive 60-gallon capacity
Brand Spin Bin
Model SpinBin
Weight 23.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Mantis Compact

Despite its name, the Mantis Compact actually holds 88 gallons, so it can certainly make a ton of fertilizer. It's also very high off the ground, so loading and unloading it is convenient even for taller users. It is one of the costlier solutions, though.
  • solid and durable construction
  • enclosed drums eliminate odors
  • needs 2 people to assemble
Brand Mantis
Model CT02001
Weight 61 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Envirocycle Systems

The popular appeal of its aesthetically pleasing design notwithstanding, once there's anything in it, spinning the barrel or moving the base that collects liquid fertilizer "tea" and houses the built-in rollers for the Envirocycle Systems can be a royal pain.
  • no assembly required
  • works in cooler climates
  • contents are difficult to access
Brand Envirocycle
Model E20C-BK
Weight 30.5 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

5. Yimby IM4000

The Yimby IM4000 is an eco-friendly choice that's constructed to maintain the ideal conditions for transforming waste into garden-nourishing magic, with one compartment for adding fresh materials to be cured and another to house the finished product of the previous batch.
  • affordably priced option
  • has adjustable air vents
  • doesn't require turning every day
Brand Yimby
Model IM4000
Weight 26.6 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Jora Insulated

For a not-insubstantial investment of a few hundred dollars, you can reap the benefits of the commercial-grade Jora Insulated, which creates optimal conditions for rapid and efficient breakdown of a wider variety of biodegradable wastes than typical units can handle.
  • built to meet stringent regulations
  • capacity of up to 106 gallons
  • odor-eliminating design
Brand Joraform Composter
Model JK 125
Weight 62 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Hot Frog Mobile

The divided canister of the Hot Frog Mobile is raised a couple of feet off the ground by a portable frame, which makes it easier for it to be carted around, and harder for uninvited critters to get into your soil-enriching goodness before it's done cooking.
  • two-stage processing system
  • holds up to 5 cubic ft of materials
  • uv-resistant recycled plastic
Brand Hot Frog
Model HF-IM4000-WK
Weight 30 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Kotulas 50-Gallon

The Kotulas 50-Gallon puts a hefty load of fertilizer-in-the-making up on wheels, so it's a great choice for avid gardeners, who can move it from one spot to another as they gather up scraps and trimmings, and deliver the resulting rich humus to wherever it's needed most.
  • made of recycled materials
  • built-in mixing paddles
  • designed to ensure speedy processing
Brand Kotulas
Model 28001472
Weight pending
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. Hot Frog Dual Body

Featuring a pair of independently rotating elevated chambers with interior agitation fins, the Hot Frog Dual Body makes it easy to get rolling on a year-round system for turning your household biodegradables into a continuous supply of high-quality garden soil nutrition.
  • 37-gallon capacity
  • wide doors for filling and emptying
  • sturdy galvanized steel frame
Brand FCMP Outdoor
Model HF-DBC4000
Weight 33.7 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

How Compost Tumblers Work

Compost tumblers work through the same basic principles of composting as other methods, with one difference: they offer the ease of a self-contained, self-aerating unit. This makes the process available to anyone with the space enough to house the compost tumbler.

Using a compost tumbler involves a basic understanding of composting principles. In its most basic form, composting is the practice of turning food and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil amendments. It is most dependent on one single factor: creating the right conditions for the diverse bacteria which will turn this waste into compost.

The process of composting begins by filling the compost tumbler up with kitchen scraps and waste matter from the yard. It is also important to add a sort of starter soil to the bin, such as fresh compost or garden soil, as this contains the microbes needed to begin the process. As the compost tumbler fills, the decomposition process is already underway. Once the tumbler is full, it is time to focus on the task of aeration and turning.

Keeping an eye on the internal temperature of the pile, rotate the bin to add more oxygen and help the microbes reach as much surface area as possible. You will also want to open the hatch every few days to check for moisture levels. Compost should be damp, not wet. It should feel like a wrung-out sponge. Luckily, keeping these factors in mind is much simpler in a compost tumbler, as the unit offers a controlled environment not afforded by many other methods.

The Science Of Composting

Regardless of the composting method, there is an exacting science to composting that will need to be understood. In a composting tumbler, this is especially true, as the limited amount of space equates to less room for error. The first thing to understand is what is known as the carbon/nitrogen ratio, which is a very important factor in composting. If the compost mix is too low in nitrogen, it will not heat up. If the mix is too low in carbon and too high in nitrogen, it may heat up too much, killing off the beneficial composting microbes.

The best way to avoid these scenarios is to keep the carbon to nitrogen ratio at 30:1 when starting out. Then, as the carbon gets converted into carbon dioxide through the composting process, the ratio will naturally level off to around 10:1. This is the ratio that should be used for the rest of the process.

It is also important to understand particle size and composting speed. As a rule of thumb, smaller particles will break down much faster than larger ones. This is because the microorganisms eating at the pile can only get to the outside surface of the compost. The more surface area they can reach, the quicker the process of composting becomes. The importance lies in the ratio of surface area to volume. Typically, particles with more surface area for their volume are desirable, as they speed up the process of composting, and result in a more even product.

Because composting happens through the action of aerobic bacteria, the importance of oxygen flow within a composting method cannot be overlooked. In compost tumblers, this usually comes in the form of various small vent holes and through the action of turning the compost barrel. This also keeps the temperature within the desired range; quickly preparing the compost for its journey to the garden.

Bacteria In A Compost Tumbler

A good pile of compost, and therefore a good compost tumbler, is full of bacteria. They are what is at the heart of every compost pile, and without these bacteria; the soil would be arid and lifeless. Understanding the bacteria in a compost tumbler helps to create a better understanding of composting and the bacteria themselves.

In the first few days of the composting process, the tumbler is overrun with bacteria known as mesophiles, which help to break down the soluble, easily degradable nutrients within the tumbler. Some examples of mesophilic bacteria include Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes. This is also the reason it is important to avoid foods such as meats, bones, and high-protein foods in compost tumblers; unfavorable mesophilic bacteria reproduce quite quickly on high-protein foods.

Mesophilic bacteria act to raise the temperature of the compost and set the stage for the thermophilic bacteria. These bacteria cause temperatures in the tumbler to rise even further; and many human or animal pathogens are destroyed in the process. These bacteria can take the heat in a compost tumbler too high, however. Temperatures of 65 degrees Celsius and above will kill many forms of microbes which are responsible for decomposition. This is why it is so important to watch the temperature of the compost tumbler closely.

After the bulk of their energy sources are spent, thermophilic bacteria begin to be replaced by beneficial mesophilic bacteria once again in a process known as curing. In a tumbler, this means leaving the vents open and leaving the tumbler alone; allowing the pile to mature itself and cool down its internal temperature.

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Last updated on March 18, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.

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