How To Make Effective Microorganisms – Step By Step
In gardening, there’s a lot of focus on chemistry – fertilizer, NPK, etc.
And that’s important, but I like to spend just as much time on biology – microorganisms, insects, animals, and of course, plants.
Today I’m excited to teach you all about the good microbes and how to make effective microorganisms.
EM microbes improve the soil, increase plant health and yield, help keep pests away, and are some of the most important beneficial bacteria and yeasts in the world.
Effective microorganisms (occasionally called efficient microbes) can be purchased as a “mother culture,” which is a liquid that contains the specific species mixed at specific ratios.
This is done in a lab – you can’t make it from scratch – but you can get this mother culture and then make 20 times that amount. This not only saves money but also wakes up the dormant microbes, making them more effective.
That process is called activating the effective microorganisms.
It’s a fermentation, like wine and yogurt, and today I’m going to give you my own effective microorganisms recipe.
I’m not going to get into the details of what it is and why you should make it because this post is just about how to make effective microorganism solution (I’ll give you a link to more info at the end of the post).
But I will just say that I believe this is the most important thing for most people to bring into most gardens.
I tend to use the term EM Effective Microorganisms® generically, like Band-aid, although I don’t even use the official EM product. I actually use a similar product made by SCD Probiotics.
But Effective Microorganisms, EM, and EM1 are registered trademarks of EM Research Organization in Japan. TeraGanix is the exclusive distributor for EM Technology in the US and Canada.
Both brands are great, so go with whichever you can get your hands on.
The Steps For Making Effective Microorganisms
1. Mother culture. First, you need a mother culture. The one I’ve been using for 10 years (and eventually started selling) is called ‘ProBio Balance’ (you can get it here).
2. Molasses. Get some unsulfured blackstrap molasses, from me or from the grocery store. Unsulfured is important because sulfur is used in molasses to actually kill microorganisms, while we’re trying to multiply them. Blackstrap is important because it’s lower in sugar and higher in nutrients. Organic is not necessary for this but is okay.
3. Container. Find a plastic container with a tight lid, like a water or soda bottle. Any size will do, but I usually make batches in 1-cup, 1-quart, or 1-gallon containers. If you’re lucky enough to have a carboy (pictured above), that will work too because it allows the gases to escape that are formed during fermentation. But if you don’t have that, the reason plastic is nice is that it has some flexibility and can handle the gas pressure better than a regular glass container.
4. Water. Fill the bottle approximately half full with hot water – not boiling, but like a hot bath. If you can use spring water or dechlorinated water, that’s great, but I’ve made this plenty of times with city water with chlorine or chloramine in it and it works fine as long as it’s not over-chlorinated – the microbes probably even clean that up because some of them are detoxifiers.
5. Mix in the molasses. Add the unsulfured blackstrap molasses to the water at 5% of the container’s volume (table below). The heat coupled with your swishing (which you can commence forthwith) will help dissolve it.
6. Nutrition. This is a bonus step. You don’t have to do it, but it will add some more nutrients in there. If you have sea salt or kelp powder or sea minerals, add one of those in at 0.1% of the container’s volume.
7. Mix in the mother culture. Add the EM1 or ProBio Balance at 5% of the container’s volume (table below).
8. More water. Fill the rest of the bottle up with more warm water.
|Container Size||Hot Water (90%)||Molasses (5%)||Mother Culture (5%)||Sea Minerals (0.1%)|
|1 pint||1 3/4 Cups||1.5 Tbsp||1.5 Tbsp||1/8 tsp|
|1 quart||3.5 Cups||3 Tbsp||3 Tbsp||1/4 tsp|
|1 gallon||14 Cups||3/4 Cup||3/4 Cup||1 tsp|
|5 gallon||4.5 Gallons||3.5 Cups||3.5 Cups||5 tsp|
9. Shake. Gently, but firmly, like you’re playing shaker in a Sergio Mendes song – not like you’re a machine that shakes paint cans.
10. Warmth. It will do best to sit somewhere between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, so put it in the warmest part of your house. I actually put mine in my oven with just the oven light on, and a post-it note on the ‘Bake’ button as a reminder that it needs to be removed if any cookies are to be made (learned this one the hard way). It should work okay at 70F but will take a lot longer.
11. Leave it. Screw the cap on tight because this is a fermentation (without air). It will take at least 1 week until it’s okay to start using, and more like 2-4 weeks until it’s really good (or 6-8 weeks if you can’t find a warm place for it to sit).
12. Burp it. If you don’t have a carboy, you’ll eventually want to ‘burp’ it daily by simply unscrewing and screwing the lid back on, to release the gases that will start forming after 2-7 days depending on the temperature.
13. Test it. Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you can get a feel for when it’s done by smell and taste, but I still like to do a test with pH paper (or a pH meter) that gives readings in the 2.5-4 range. Anything below 3.8 and above 2.7 is okay, with 3.0-3.5 being ideal. 3.8 and above are no good.
14. Use it. I use it monthly as a spray on my plants, soil, and compost, at 1/2 cup per 1000 square feet, mixed with at least 8 gallons of water (that’s a 1:250 ratio).
15. Store it. At room temperature, not in direct sunlight, but not necessarily in the dark either, as it seems to prefer a little indirect light. The mother culture has an expiry date, but in my experience will last a year beyond that. Your homemade activation is most effective within the first month after the pH drops below 3.8, but will store for months after that. If you make a few bottles, once the activation is done, you can use one bottle to fill the rest up to the brim so as to store them without air, and then just use that bottle first. A little air is okay during the fermentation, but not during storage if you want it to last a long time.
By the way, if you order the ProBio Balance mother culture from me, I’ll give you free access to my course that gives a more detailed process for how to make effective microorganisms.
For more info on all of this, check out my SCD Probiotics post.
And if you have any questions, feel free to ask down below, too.
*Effective Microorganisms, EM, and EM1 are registered trademarks of EM Research Organization in Japan. TeraGanix is the exclusive distributor for EM Technology in the US and Canada.
How about affixing a large balloon to the jug neck to capture the gases. My grandmother use to make wine this way.
Yes, that’s an excellent idea.
I wanted to know how much of this should you mix if you are going to take it your self I heard you say that you take it orally so how is this done can you please tell me the amount the measurements and all that thank you
I currently take about a teaspoon a day, straight from the bottle, but I can’t tell others to do that because the product isn’t classified as food grade.
Hi Phil, I have just ordered EM-1 for a pest issue were having but would also like to ingest it as well. Do you ingest EM-1 straight from the bottle or do you activitate it first with the molasses recipe and than ingest it? I realize it’s not considered food grade but we don’t care. Thanks for this great information👍
I mostly activate it, mainly to save money, but I will drink the mother culture if I don’t have any activations ready. Of course, I can’t recommend either of them to you because it’s not made for human consumption.
Hi .. where I live I can’t get the mother culture .. how can I do it
You can’t make EM on your own but you can make a simpler inoculant: https://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/garden-inoculant/
🌹Since IDK the type of gas it emits- common sense tells me that as long as one is careful not to inhale it or expose it to open flame the balloon method seems practical enough to me! (Yes I’m often over cautious!) 😎Let us know how it goes! Best Wishes! Care🕊
Can i use raw sugar in the absence of molasses? Thanks
I’m not sure, I don’t remember whether I ever tried it. I’ve heard of failed attempts when using sugar, but frankly, I think it should work. I would use 1/2 as much sugar as mother culture (with blackstrap molasses, we use equal parts molasses and sugar, but blackstrap molasses is only about 50% sugar, so that’s why I would use 1/2 as much sugar as mother culture).
How cool Phil I have been making probiotics for my family with kefirs and cultured veggies and kombucha over the past year. I also have from my organic csa probiotic for livestock and have read about bocashi for the garden! with a system to purchase at whole foods $80.00! one lady Donna Schwenk would use her old scoby for kombucha on her tomatoes and has the envy of her neighbors!!! I would be interested in what the strains are you are using in this fermenting I’m off to investigate! YEAH!
Thanks for sharing. I make a lot of kombucha too (I drink a bottle every couple of days!) and nothing beats the taste, but I will say when it comes to health that there seems to be something about the EM that beats all other fermented foods/drinks. I only say this from my own experience, especially from clients with digestive issues who had tried kombucha and other probiotics without success, but had amazing results with EM. That being said, I don’t really know for sure if it’s better for everyone or just some people, and why it’s better. Many of the microbes are the same as in other common fermented foods, such as the lactic acid bacteria and Saccharomyces yeast – perhaps it’s the photosynthetic bacteria in EM that give it the edge? Anyway, I have a list of microbe species on my main page: https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/
One source working and not another is possiably from body pH…
So, if I understand correctly you use the ferment you make to make new ferments and so forth? Also can this be infused into bran to make Bokashi?
You can’t keep fermenting it reliably. You can do 1 good fermentation from the mother culture (making 20X the original), and it’s possible to do a 2nd fermentation from the 1st, but you’ll already start moving away from the correct proportions. Personally, I don’t bother for a garden because the mother culture is so affordable, but if I had a bigger farm, I’d probably do the 2nd fermentation, too.
Yes, you can use it to make Bokashi.
Thanks for sharing about expiration, I was getting ready to send you an email asking just that, since my bottle I use for gardening supposedly expired in November. Is it just that over time the active organisms start decreasing in amount and die off? So it doesn’t really go “bad” – just ineffective?
Yes, after you’ve opened the bottle and used some of it, they’ll gradually (over months and years) hibernate and die off. Eventually, it could go bad, but it would have a horrible smell, so you’d know it. I don’t recall if that’s ever happened to me. If yours still smells okay, it is okay.But what I was also referring to in the article regarding expiry is that if you open a brand new bottle on its expiry date, it will still be good for quite awhile because in some ways, it’s like a fresh batch, because it hadn’t been opened before.
I have a bottle of em-1 that’s past expiration date and smells mostly normal, but has what looks like a thin scoby floating in it. I shook the bottle and it kind of crumpled up, but not sure if that means some kind of bad bacteria took over. Would you still put it on your plants?
I still use it for at least 1 year after expiry. The scoby is the yeast – totally normal, even on new bottles.
So how do I use this, how much, how often, spray or put on whole garden or just around plants?
I use it monthly as a spray on my plants, soil and compost. Here’s a link directly to my information on how much you need and how much to use ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/ ) and here’s a link to my calculator that helps you figure that out for your square footage and frequency of application ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/soil-food-web/how-to-make-effective-microorganisms/ ).
I am making bokashi with EMr1 as the starter. It smells great but has a lot of fuzzy white mod on top and also yellowish slightly greenish stuff (mold?) on the top inch or so. I lost track but I think it has been three weeks since I mixed it up. It’s been in a covered bucket outdoors in Boston. So kind of fluctuating temperature but basically warm. What do you think?
Bokashi does often get mold on top because there is usually air on top. I’m not a mold expert, but it’s not something I worry about when using the bokashi in my garden.
You suggest a ratio of activated EM:water at 1/2C:8gal. I just brewed a batch of compost tea. Would it be okay to mix 1/2C activated EM with 8 gal compost tea instead, or should I apply the two separately?
Hi Shannon, yes, I usually add 2 Tbsp of EM into my 5 gallons of compost tea, during brewing, although after brewing is fine, too.
Novice here, please be patient. I live in south Louisiana where the soil is crawfish clay with a shallow layer of top soil. We have always just planted in the ground but within a couple of years it seems like plant don’t do well any more. We’ve tilled sand into the clay and added more top soil along with commercial fertilizers which I now know to stay away from. We are now making raised beds and purchasing soil which is such a shame because we have about 3 acres that we could plant on but it’s too frustrating. Now for the probiotics question. I understand the concept of taking probiotics, we take them as supplements, but my question is, once you make the probiotics you talked about in your article, what do you do with them? Do you just mix them in your soil, water plants with it, or what?
Good questions. Sand will not help your clay. What you need is to balance your soil fertility (send a soil sample to a good, organic soil lab and work with them to balance fertility) and your biology (with compost and products like the one we’re talking about here). I talk about these things elsewhere on this site and especially in my online organic gardening course. To answer your probiotics question, I’ll send you here: https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/
Thanks for your reply. Actually, I went back and read that part in your book. It’s quite a daunting task.Thanks for the link on usage.
I have a similar soil situation on my property. I’ve been adding compost and mulch for 14 years. I still have areas that need more work, and you can tell by how things don’t grow as well in those places. Also, I could have been more diligent, but it is a long and ongoing thing that takes some dedication and determination.The EM will help a lot and also you can do lasagna gardening instead of raised beds… that means you basically compost things in a sheet over the area you want to plant in later. In the fall, one year I had had enough leaves, cardboard, used coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, straw and pumpkins to pile a problem area up 4 feet high… and the next spring we worked it all into the soil deeply by double digging and things grow beautifully there now. If you become a scavenger for compost materials, it takes time but your soil can be rehabbed. We also have to continue adding compost and mulch or some areas will “revert” back to clay.
As soon as people “get” the perfect soil-Then they die.. Then their children sell the property.. Just saying..
You’re sooo right on the nail Martha!
Hi I live in New Zealand and have a property with solid clay and very little topsoil. I have used the Lasagne Gardening method here for 12 years – and the veges and fruit trees are very happy! The clay is a great base – it stops the nutrients from draining away from the top layers.
Essentially I just make a compost heap about 1 -1.5 feet high using layers of stuff that is available locally (food scraps, tree-pruning mulch, horse poo, seaweed, wood ash …). I never dig – I just wait until the worms are near the top of the pile, and plant straight into it (about 3-4 weeks). Now I have so much topsoil that I can make a layer heap, shuffle it aside with my hands to make a small hole and plant straight into the topsoil – so I don’t have to wait.
I use a plastic bottle with top and bottom cut out to keep the compost from falling in on the seedling. (I have a bin full of these). The seedlings have a bit of shelter, and lots of food as they grow. I then don’t have to do anything (weeding or feeding) for the life of the vege plant. If it is a perennial I just make the next compost layer heap around it.
Enjoy your clay and your good back – digging hurts!
Also, look into Biochar.. I just learned about it last year and have started putting it into practice too. I think it is a dramatic help in clay.
look up elaine ingham and the soil food web. you will be glad you did!!!
I activated some EM1 a month ago and 18 days ago. I took the 1m old activated solution and sprayed half of it on my compost pile as I was turning it! OOOOPS, mistake #1, I should have diluted it! Also it smelt like molasses so maybe it was not ready??? I kept it in the house, not in a paticularly warm spot so I thought one month would do.. I was just given a PH meter and just measured the Ph (a device with a probe) and the Dec 4th batch Dec is at 6 and the 18 days old batches are around 6.5. Not ready I guess! Can I put the bottle in the sun to warm up? Do they prefer darkness?
If your pH is at 6.5 then something has gone wrong with the activation and you should throw it out and start again (you can throw it into the compost). Or actually, check if your pH meter is working because I’ve never seen the pH go that high on an activation – something seems off with the meter. But I have seen the pH go up to 4.5 and it means something went wrong. It doesn’t happen too often, but as with making yogurt/wine/etc., it can happen.Some of the most common reasons for failure are: 1. Inappropriate containers (previously containing chemicals, rotten food, bad Activated EM batches) 2. Poor water quality (for some reason distilled and reverse osmosis don’t always work that well, and certainly polluted water or water very high in chlorine can cause issues) 3. Not optimal temperature (too hot or too cold) 4. Using more molasses than EMAs for darkness, they like indirect light. Too much direct sunlight can be a problem, and too much darkness isn’t ideal either. I’m not sure how big of an issue the light level is, but I go with: not too much, and not too little.Hope that helps!
Here are the photos. Great point about cleanliness of the containers – the first one was very clean (as it was the original gallon container the EM1 came in), the other 2 were not cleaned thoroughly… I will borrow a PH Meter and checked again. What is your frequency of checking the PH when you activate a batch? Any other way of checking beside the bad smell?Thank you so much for your help Phil!
Thanks for the photo. I don’t check the pH often at all – maybe after a week or two just to make sure things are working okay. I have a pH meter, too, but I get tired of recalibrating it so I always just use my pH paper now. I sell the paper ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/ ). It is a bit pricey in my opinion but will last many years if you just use 1/2 inch of paper at a time, and I haven’t found a more affordable option online that focuses on the 3-5 pH range.
what would be the postage to Florida for the PH paper?
Could you use some of the activated EM as mother culture? In the same way as you would with sour dough?
Unfortunately it doesn’t work very well. I wish it did. The proportions of all the microbes needs to be within a narrow range, and subsequent activations move it out of that range.
But couldn’t you use the activated expanded EM to propagate just lactobacillus in milk?
Sorry Jon, I don’t quite understand the question.
Yes . You can use em or activated em to inoculate milk to get labs. Basically you are cutting out the rice water step. You will only get the labs tho.. no pnsb.
Hi there, i would like to ask, when the em is stored, what happens to the organisms, do they turn inactive? Do you still need to burp them (if you made 1 or 2 bottles extra)
If stored for a few months, they don’t go inactive. If stored for years, many of them will and will be reactivated during application when you mix with molasses. When you store them at room temperature, the burping can eventually stop because their metabolism will slow down. You may need to burp still for a couple of weeks at room temperature, but you’ll eventually see it becomes unnecessary.
Hi Phil, and thank you. I just left this question with the gardenerspantry.ca website not realizing that you’re now here. My question is this: I’m looking to save time effort and space with Bokashi mix. Could I activate the EM and use a spray bottle to just spritz my food scraps every time I emptied my small bucket into the bigger one? This would be instead of mixing the microbes with water and molasses into wheat bran and letting it ferment for two weeks before using THAT on my food scraps. What do you think about the spritz idea? (No comments on my laziness!)
The bokashi will be most effective, but you could try doing what you’ve just suggested, with 1 addition: toss a handful of wheat bran or sawdust or other shredded high-carbon material in with the food scraps, then spray the whole thing with activated EM. You want to balance out the nitrogen and moisture of the food scraps with the carbon and dryness of the bran/sawdust/whatever.
I have two questions.1. My EM that I feremented for about 8 weeks got a white film on it. I strained off the white film. So is it ok to use or should I toss it out?2. In one of the comments you were talking about EM being better than Kombucha and Kefir. It sounds like you have injested this EM? If so how does that work???Thanks so much for all your advice and gardening help. I have learned so much from you.Becky
1. Yes, the white stuff is no problem. It’s just the yeast. I don’t bother straining it, but I have read that it can cause a batch to go bad more quickly, so you could strain. I’m not sure how much it matters.2. I sell a product (at least for the time being) called ‘Essential Probiotics’ that is basically the food-grade version, so it’s the one that I sell for you to drink. Personally, I drink the regular non-food grade one because it’s more affordable, but I can’t sell that one for that purpose. Anyway, whichever one people decide to drink for themselves, it’s usually 1 Tbsp per day, and up to 3 Tbsp per day if you’re feeling sick/sore throat/sore tummy/etc. It can often be very helpful.
Wow, Thanks for the quick reply and your helpful advice!!!
Can you ship the probio balance or any of it’s constitute parts to the UK?Phil
No, I can’t ship there. I’m not aware of any ProBio Balance retailers there either, but I did find this EM retailer: https://www.em-sustainableliving.co.uk/
Hi Phil. A couple of questions.I am aware the carboy is the 1 gallon glass container in the above photo. What is the pressure relief mechanism with the cork stopper and where can they be found?I am in South Texas (Mold & Humidity Central) I have tried a few times to make Ann Wigmore’s Rejuvelac drink with wheat berries and it always ends smelling like poo poo. I don’t know if its our humid moldy environment…. I have tried with both distilled and spring bottled water with sterilized glass jars. Do you think the EM added to the water would help or what can be the problem?Thanks
Terry – The cork is a Drilled Stopper or Drilled Bung. The pressure relief is a Three-Piece Airlock. They can be obtained from any Wine / Brew supply shop. The corks come in different sizes to fit various size carboys.
Thanks Phil. This supplier is in my neighborhood. I am not a drinker or home brewer so this is new to me. I am more of one of those Texans that will just chew, spit and cuss…. 🙂
It’s called an airlock and can be found at wine/beer making supply stores or online.I’ve never tried Rejuvelac, so not sure what the issue is. It’s possible that EM could be a help. I would just use a teaspoon of EM per quart.(Edit: I didn’t see JJ’s airlock answer before I wrote mine above. Even better)
I am getting the hard materials required from Texas Brewers to make EM. So, I will be ordering the EM from you soon. I was looking for rock dust locally to avoid shipping cost and it is just nowhere in the south. What is available is azomite for about $20 a bag. I was told it comes from a volcanic source in Utah as opposed to glacial sources. Do you have thoughts on that product? With a busy schedule I have limited time for gardening so I am taking your advice and starting with the EM as the most important substance I can apply. Also, I am excited to put in an elderberry patch next week when the plants arrive. Elder was the 2013 herb of the year and after reading the book think it should be in everyone’s garden. (sorry, personal opinion) It is an amazing herb. Thanks for your help.
Azomite is a volcanic rock dust, and yes, it’s good stuff too. If you’re looking at $20 for a 20 pound bag, that’s a decent price.Yes, EM is the most important and I always like a liquid kelp or sea minerals to go along with it.I’m a big elderberry fan as well. Have a couple in my garden along with gooseberries and currants.
Is it safe to put IMO to my dog food? My mother want to put some i heard 0.5 ml of IMO to my dog food so their poop will not smell bad. Is it true? Im just worried about my puppies, they are just 3 months old shih tzu. Please give me some idea. Thanks in advance
It’s safe to put EM. But IMO is homemade there may be a little more risk there, but if it smells okay, it should be okay.
how much of the finished brew does a person take internally? Also, how would a person use an extra kombucha scoby or extra water kefir grains to benefit their tomatoes or vegetables as mentioned below?
Since it’s not ‘food grade’, I don’t suggest that other people drink it, but I drink 1-3 teaspoons a day, up to 3 Tbsp if I’m feeling sick or have a cold.I’m not sure how best to use the scoby or kefir grains. I would chop the scoby up into pieces or put it through a blender, mix with at least 20 parts water or even more like 100 parts water in order to make it go further, and water my plants with it. I’d probably do the same with the kefir grains.
I have prepared some batches of EM-1 and contain it in 1 liter plastic bottle but gases started forming in bottles,which is in consequence affecting bottles packing, how to overcome from gas problem while packing. please help
You mean packing and shipping? Perhaps you can put balloons instead of lids during shipping, because they will expand if the gases get forming more quickly on the road.
can i make other derivaties like EMFE with AEM …or must i use EM1 only
Most of those activations do much better when made with EM1 (or ProBio Balance) rather than AEM (or BioAg). Whenever you’re mixing it with molasses and letting it ferment for a while, the mother culture is best. If you’re just mixing it with other ingredients and spraying right away, the activated is fine.
Hello Phil,I just realized that I have been purchasing the “Mother Culture” of Pro Bio and using it straight (as well as drinking it straight) and not “activating” it. Has this all been a waste, or is it still beneficial in the concentrated form?
It’s still totally fine concentrated – just a little more expensive and the microbes are a little more sleepy if they’ve been sitting around for awhile. But as soon as they hit food, they’ll get to work. In the past I leaned a little more to preferring a freshly activated batch, but now I think both are just fine. Nothing to worry about.
Can this be made with chicken broth? It’s an idea I’ve had for dog food.
Good question. I imagine it could work. I’d be more likely to just add EM directly into their water (or food) at 3% of the volume of the water (or food).
You can make EM yourself, it’ll just be generic like your Baid-Aid analogy. Wash 1/2 cup of rice with 1 cup of water, strain off the rice. Let the water sit in a mason jar with the lid resting on top (to allow for gas expansion) in a cool, dark place for 7 days. Strain off solids at that point. Then, transfer to a gallon-sized container with a lid and add 10 cups of zero-fat milk. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 14 days with the lid resting on top. You’ll want to do this in a place that’s protected from flies… Strain off the solids. This step is gross, but the end is worth it. At this point, you have EM serum – add blackstrap unsulfured molasses and refrigerate. The shelf life is about 6 months, I’m sure you can find a use for it in that time.
Absolutely. It’s very different from EM – and not nearly as effective in my experience – but still useful with the wonderful benefit of being very inexpensive. I share a similar recipe here: https://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/garden-inoculant/
Hi TO,how much of molasses should be added? thanks!jbf
Please read the article.
Very handy, thank you! Question: If I don’t have access to the probio balance, could I use the mother at the bottom of my apple cider vinegar jar as a mother culture for this process?
No, that works with kombucha, but not something as different as EM/Probio.
I tried the fermentation process however the plastic container was shrinking on the next day. Smell normal like molasses and pH tested 4.4. What is wrong with it?
How do you store the ProBio Balance with mother if you just make 1 container (out of the 20 it will make using your recipe)? The best way to store the main bottle? How long will it last in that condition? Also when you make an activated bottle do you dilute it or use it full strength?
You store it at room temperature, not in direct sunlight (indirect light is okay, even good, just not direct light). It lasts at least 2 years like this. With the activated bottle, you still dilute it, usually 1:250 (1 Tbsp of activated per gallon of water).
Was getting ready to order and then noticed it isn’t vegan. Thanks anyway – it was a good read.
It is vegan.
Is it drinkable?
A lot of people take a swig every day, but it isn’t considered food grade, so I can’t recommend that others do so.
I found your site from doing some preliminary research into apartment composting and the bokaski style system. Would you say that growing out a home made EM solution in the manner you describe above is the same strain as that used for innoculating grains to feed a compact compost? Part of my wanting to take this on board is to reduce plastic bag liners (currently recycling shopping bags but as reduced as this is, with each bag being used around 6 times before becoming a bin liner, I want to ban them from my life entirely), and minimise my home’s contribution to landfill. I have experience with building up Saccharomyces cerevisiae, keeping yeast libraries for future applications, growing out mycological tissue cultures on agar, and am just trying my hand now at kombucha, mostly because I wanted to see the behaviour of a lactic organism (haven’t drank any yet, and it’s gone way too sour!! )no problem, I see them now as my ‘farms’). With exposure to these various processes I also am well across sterile work environments, environmental conditions etc. – so anyway, the amateur ‘home bio-lab’ is something I quite enjoy and I’m researching in to EM for composting as mentioned, and am hoping to make my own activated grain… the commercial product is around $20/kg (or 1/2 pound for Amercian readers) in my country, which seems like a complete and total rip off for what is like around fifty cents of product.
I’m also hoping to isolate whatever I need to culture out of any first runnings of liquid compost to reculture new batches (thus I will NEVER be drinking this solution, as others have mentioned !). If heat and constant oxygenation is required I can do that also, I have some lab flasks and a magnetic stir plate to keep solutions aerated. No idea if this is a feasible option (as it is with liquid myco culture, or brewing yeast starters) but would love to read some further thoughts you might have, particularly around ‘urban composting’ and the biological properties of Effective Microorganisms.
On a side note – why are you using molasses specifically as a food source for your EM culturing? Do the minerals specific to molasses (that are absent in other sugar sources) contribute to culture growth?
Yes, if you start with a mother culture, you can activate your own as I’ve described above and then use that for bokashi composting. I haven’t used it for any other types of compost other than spraying it on my compost pile whenever I’m spraying the rest of my garden. I use molasses is because that’s how it’s always been taught – EM originated in the early 80s in Japan and most everyone uses molasses, perhaps because of the minerals, but I’m not entirely sure.
For more reading, here’s an interesting book, which seems to be free right now on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/document/205100755/Adv-Guide-Brewing-SCD-E-Book-v1-9a
I just got the probio Balance via USPS. I mixed Molasses and Mother Culture into one gallon plastic jar. My question is should I brewed it under the sun shade area ? I lived in Los Angeles, Sunshine everyday. Or just dark warm area.
Thanks for your time
Preferably indirect light – so not right in the sun, but not in the dark either.
Thank you for your great information about how to make EM1.
I don’t want to by EM1 . I wonder if is it possible to make it by myself in Lab?
Even if you do have all of the thousands of dollars of equipment, you need to get all of the microbial strains from different sources. It’s much less expensive just to buy it. You can, however, make a simpler inoculant ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/garden-inoculant/ ). It’s much less effective, but still useful.
Hi Phil ,
Thank you ! after long searching on online I have found a useful reading about EM bacteria. I have been using EM bacteria for shrimp culture to control vibrios. But, I am not quite sure about how it ‘s effective for vibrio control. Please, could you explain how to mass culture from mother culture? will I use filtered sea water instead of fresh water?
Sorry Babu, I don’t understand your question.
Thanks for this great info. I bought a bottle of your Pro Bio Balance and had a friend bring it down to me in Peru a few months ago. I have yet to use it, but am getting ready to start.
Here’s a question: I am wondering if I can use black carob syrup (algarrobina) in lieu of molasses?
Hello, and thanks for the great article!
My question is somewhat out of topic, but since you are an EM expert hopefully you’ll have some tips for me.
I was wondering if you can mix EM with alcohol and essential oils (for house cleaning), I haven’t found any recipe online but I was thinking:
– 1 part alcohol
– 10 parts water + EM (1/100 diluition)
– essential oils
since alcohol and essential oils basically kill bacteria I am not really sure how the EM would react…
I also read somewhere that EM are effective to treat ear mices in cats and dogs, but I am not sure if I have to use them pure or diluited, so this is another doubt I hope you can solve for me
I would think the alcohol and essential oils would kill or at last harm the microorganisms in the EM. Better to use the EM alone.
You can use the EM undiluted to spray on animals.
Sorry I don’t know if you’ve answered this already, but how can you use EM1 for yourself, ie. not for garden but for human, for digestive health and such?
And how about to prep EM ceramics with EM1?
These days I drink about 1 teaspoon every day, just straight from the bottle, but I can’t recommend other people do that because EM1 is not technically food grade. As for prepping ceramics, sorry, I’m not sure how to do that.
Hi Phil. I was wondering once I brew a 5gallon batch in a carboy can I take 4 or 5 cups from that and start another one?
If the first batch is quite good, it is possible to do that. The trouble is, with each additional brew, the mixture moves a little further away from the rather specific proportions of microbes that were in the mother culture, and effectiveness drops up substantially.
Thank you so much!!
Can you explain how I can make microbes go dormant so I can make and store them longer?
Just put them in the coldest part of your house (a fridge may be a little too cold). They’ll go dormant when they get low on food.
I tried it twice already with no success. I used brown sugar instead of molasses. I’t been a week and a half and PH is 5.2 What do you think could be wrong?
I’ve never heard of using sugar instead of molasses, so that may have something to do with it.
Hello from France and thanks so much for this article!! My naturopath has just introduced me to EM and I am now making my first 1L batch in a glass hermetic jar. I familiar with fermenting vegetables and am used to burping this jar once and awhile to allow gases to escape, however it has been 2-3 days now for the EM and no gases have built up. There is also a white, film/”skin” growing on the surface. Should I be worried? Thank you!!
Sometimes it can take a week or two for the gases to start building up. The white stuff is just yeast – part of the mix 🙂
Okay this reassures me, thanks so much!! 🙂
Thanks for wonderful information. how can we convert the effective microorganism in the powder form. kindly elloborate.
EM is by definition a liquid mixture, so can’t be powdered. Luckily, you don’t need much of the liquid. We’re usually mixing it at least 1:250 with water, sometimes even 1:1000.
Sewage tank microbes
Yes, EM is used in sewage at an average rate of 1 gallon per 10,000 gallons of wastewater.
Great stuff I’m on my second batch of EM from your culture although the second one is with the molasses and the first was made from rice water but seemed to work fine . I’ve enjoyed your database of information and now have everyone asking me to make them their own EM solution .
Seems this solution works great on skin also for topical fungal issues as I have people that swear by it…
a primary reason I bought a bottle of bioag is to address what I think is a case of fungal infection, if you have a website or resource on this I would be interested.
Hi, can this solution works in breaking farm yard manure into useful nutrients?
Yes, once your EM has been activated, it’s great to spray it on manure, but I’d still love to see the manure mixed with a carbon-rich material such as leaves, straw, sawdust or wood chips.
I am curious if I could make an EM solution from pre-bought bokashi mix? If I added the bokashi to water and molasses would it maintain the correct balance of microbes?
Alas, the answer is no. The proportions need to be fairly exact. That’s why a mother culture is needed.
I made a batch in a white milk bottle and kept it in the oven with the light on. It didnt ‘burp’ but once when I checked it, but it did test at under pH of 4. Finally I took it’s temperature- 160F! Guess my oven light is pretty hot!
Does this mean the microbes have died?
Possibly. You could leave it for another week to see what happens. If the pH gets down a little lower, it could still be okay. In the meantime, you could start another batch. The oven is good but you may need to leave the door slightly ajar.
I’m new to your site and so far I absolutely love it! I have a couple of questions.
1) I followed your link to buy ProBio but it took me to the BioAgs product. I know you mentioned that I would see that on there, but not sure where I would select the ProBio product. As I understand it, the BioAgs cannot be used as the mother, right, since it can’t be further activated?
2) What is the advantages of using your own EM solution as opposed to making compost tea? Or, what are the beneficial differences between the two?
Thank you so much!
1. They’re both discussed on the same page and you can order the ProBio by selecting it in the dropdown menu at the top of the page. Yes, that’s the one you want for activating.
2. If you look on the right-hand side of this page ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/ ), or at the bottom of the page if you’re on mobile, you’ll see a box called Compost Tea Vs SCD/EM Vs Mycorrhizal Fungi which will explain the differences.
Can you suggest various of preservative that can prolonged the use of EM powder? Thanks in advance.
Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean.
Hi Phil, I made some E.M. solution, and about a month later it had a layer of white mold floating on the solution I haven’t used. (I’m located in a remote area in Thailand without refrigeration or a very cool place to store it.)
Is this mold a sign of a problem?
That’s just the yeast. Very common. No problem at all!
Hi there have just bought em1 doctor higa’s original effective , how do I continue to use the same bottle forever because not knowing the right amount of mollasis to add is the problem as there isn’t much information about continuing the same batch from the last one So you have it for life . Is this viable as what I’ve learned you can continue this process continually
No, it can’t be continued indefinitely, as the microbe proportions become imbalanced fairly quickly. Most people recommend just 1 activation. I’ve heard of people doing 2-3 activations but the biological activity – and the effectiveness – decreases a fair amount.
The storage is almost one year without any cell protectants or preservative?
Yes, the pH is below 4 so it lasts a long time.
Hi Phil, as I know the apperance of the yeast’s white mold floating on the solution is common, I wonder which yeast is it? Is it Saccharomyces cerevisiae?
I made some E.M. solution but I don’n have seen that yet, how can I do to make a white mold?
I’m worry about my EM is low quality.
I think it is S. cerevisiae. It is common, but not necessary. The main thing I look for is a pH in the low to mid 3 range.
I read somewhere that molasses should be added to EM stored in fridge so as to keep them alive for a long time. Is this statement true?
That’s for when you make your own lactic acid bacteria inoculant ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/plants/garden-inoculant/ ). EM doesn’t need this, and should be stored at room temperature – not in the fridge.
Thanks for the valuable information about EM1, I’m using EM1 for fruit trees in my farm 3 liter/acre during irrigation by dripping. This to enhance the soil health. Also, I use hydrochloric and nitric acids for the same purpose but in separate batches. I wonder if the acids will kill the microbes in the soil,and if so, how you advise me instead.
Much appreciated your advice..
I’m not sure why you’re using those acids but yes, they will harm the microbes to some degree. I’m not sure how long the effect will last. Again, I’m not sure why you’re using them so I can’t really advise you to stop but just make sure you regularly use the EM1 to make sure the microbes are there.
I have two(ish) questions:
1) I’m brewing my first batch of activated EM from the ProBio Balance; it’s been over a week and my pH meter is still saying it’s at 6–but it’s just a $6 thing I picked up at the gardening place and I’m not sure it’s accurate, so I’ve ordered the pH paper from you. My question is: I keep it in the oven with the warming drawer on sometimes, which is what I do for proving bread; it may have hit 115F at some point when I left it there overnight. Do you think 115F would have killed it? If so, I may just add more mother culture to the existing mix; would you agree that’s a good idea, figuring that all the other elements in the mix are still good?
2) I’m trying to grow citrus here in San Francisco, and I’m fairly new to it though I notice that there is a thriving Meyer lemon tree in nearly every backyard on my street. I’ve just started using your methods and products–I’ve sprayed twice in two months (though after reading more I think I’ll change the quantities and go for every week). I have been told, and citrus growers’ websites confirm, that citrus trees must have citrus fertilizer. If I am using the microbes, fish fertilizer, seaweed, and sea minerals, do you think that adding citrus fertilizer once a month during citrus fruiting season (November through May I think) is still a good idea, or too much? Some of my trees are in pots and one is in a raised hugelkultur bed with no bottom. I haven’t fertilized them since spraying, and they’re not fruiting, but that is not new and could just be because they didn’t get started fruiting at the right time.
Many thanks for making all this information available to us! I’m three years’ new to gardening and feeling very hopeful about the coming year.
I don’t think 115 would kill it. You should still be okay. But adding a little more mother culture doesn’t hurt at all.
You’ll be fine to include the citrus fertilizer, too. Just don’t overdo it or my products and the tree will thank you. Trees can take years to fruit, so just keep focusing on health and you’ll get there eventually 🙂
Hi Phil ,
Hope my question isn’t too odd .
Can it be used as a food supplement, aka , soil based probiotic ?
I take at least 1 teaspoon per day but I can’t tell other people to do that because it isn’t technically food-grade. That’s why I also sell a food-grade version with herbs called Herbal Probiotic Drink ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/ ).
Hi, I bought some mother culture from you and have followed the instructions for activating it. I put it in my dehydrator at 95 and it’s been 6 days. It’s doesn’t look active. I haven’t seen any bubbling or action like I do when I make sauerkraut. Is that normal? My molasses is old but I wouldn’t think that should matter. Thanks!
It does bubble a little, although not much. Is your molasses unsulfured? You could try adding a little more of the mother culture and waiting another week.
Hi Phil – I’ve successfully brewed a gallon but how do I portion that gallon into two gallons? So I can continue to brew more to keep up with usage? Do I need to keep starting over with the
I use only the mother culture to start with. Some people will activate their 1st activation one more time, but with each generation, you move away from the specific proportions that make EM work so well. If my finances were extremely limited, I’d probably do it, but I’d want to make sure to hit the garden with some of the 1st activation every once in a while, too, in case the benefit of the 2nd generation is much lower.
you said, “if you order the ProBio Balance mother culture from me, I’ll give you free access to my course that gives a more detailed process for how to make effective microorganisms.” Does this mean you will teach me how to keep the culture going?
The course is similar to the process above – it’s just shared in more detail (9 videos). Unfortunately, the culture can’t be kept going indefinitely.
I dont understand. There is a conflict in the information, If it can’t be made, and you can’t keep it going, then where does it come from?
From the lesson above: “This is done in a lab – you can’t make it from scratch – but you can get this mother culture and then make 20 times that amount.”
Can I reproduce/multiply it from produced/activated culture. I mean I’ve done the process, used it and I have little more. And using that little amount, can I reproduce em again?
Thanks in forward.
I’m heard of some people doing a second activation, although it’s not as effective as the first.
Thanks for your kind reply. Have a nice day and work.
My apologies for this newbie question. Once a person purchases a mother, such as the one you sell, you can indefinitely reproduce the EM as long as you continue to feed it is this correct? Like you can with kombucha and kefir grains? Or do we need to purchase more of the mother culture once we have reactivated the entire bottle? Thank you.
It’s a good question. Some people will do a second activation (mother culture -> activation 1 -> activation 2), but each time you activate, the proportion of each microbe in the mix shifts further away from ideal, so it gets less effective. Personally, I only activate directly from the mother, and I wouldn’t recommend doing more than 2 as I outlined in the sentence above.
We keep our house pretty cold and it never gets very warm here. 60f is a warm spot in the house. Would it be possible to activate EM in my Instapot on the yogurt setting? I make yogurt with it all the time.
According to this ( https://instantpoteats.com/instant-pot-settings-buttons-explained/#keep%20warm ), even the ‘Keep Warm’ setting only goes down to 135F, which is too high. I haven’t used an Instapot, but could you keep the lid slightly open to keep it cooler? I mostly just use the oven with the light on.
Phil, you are brilliant! It never occurred to me to look it up…blaming that on Co-vid….but I found that the yogurt setting is different than the keep warm. The “Yogurt” function default fermentation timing is 24 hours and goes up to 99 hours and 30 minutes. “
Select the “less” mode for making Jiu Niang (fermented glutinous rice). The temperature ranges from 86 – 93.2°F (30 – 34°C).
Normal” mode for is for making yogurt. It ferments milk after the culture has been added. The temperature is between 36 – 43° C (96.8 – 109.4°F).
So I think that I could use the “less” mode 86-93.2f for as long as I need. Does that sound right?
That sounds perfect!
Great info, thanks! I’m confused, however, if the recipe using rice and milk is to be used in conjunction with the recipe using molasses or if they’re just 2 different inoculants. Could you please clarify? Thanks much!
2 different inoculants.
Using kombucha scoby for garden fertilizer?? Tell me more! Who has done this and what exactly did you do??
I’ve chopped scobies up into pieces and thrown them in with potted plants or under plants in the garden, or I’ve taken the pieces, blended with water, and used that to water my plants. Nothing too scientific, but it can’t hurt.
A car accident occurred in my vegetable garden a month ago. I have a batch of the EM product that your instructions gave me to make. can I use it to decontaminate the potential contaminants in the soil before I plant my root crops
Yes, it’s a great idea. It won’t likely take care of everything, but it’s a great place to start.
Hello Phil, thank you very much for the information you have given. I have a question. I have 5 gr. There is a consortium of 3 different Glomus endo Mycorrhiza Fungi. According to your recipe, in what measure can I multiply so many mushrooms (as a tea glass, molasses and water mixture) Thank you in advance for your answer.
With your permission, I would like to clarify my question. 5 g in my hand. I have endo microniza. I can ferment it by combining how much molasses with how much water. and how much water can I combine with the effective mycorrhiza I get and throw it into the field.
Alas, you can’t do this process with mycorrhizal fungi.
For the sake of documenting this somewhere useful, I wanted to let folks know about my recent batch of activated EM. I’m trying out dehydrated molasses. I thought it’d be a little less messy.
(I actually have two going, one with some old EM-1 and one with a new batch of SCD BioAg, just to see if the old one still has life in it. 1+ years old).
After a week, the pH is headed in the right direction, but I have a thick layer of sediment on the bottom of the jars that I never had when using liquid molasses. I don’t think it will be a problem, other than I’ll have to strain it before use, but I don’t think I’ll be using the powdered molasses going forward. Any guesses as to what’s going on?
Perhaps the powder doesn’t dissolve as well, so the layer is actually the molasses?
By the way, the Bio Ag isn’t meant to be activated as it’s more of a ready-to-use product, although it may still work. Next time, though, pick up SCD’s “Probio Balance” because it’s the mother culture meant for activation. Have fun!
ProBio Balance is actually what I used. I mistyped. Next time I could try warming the water I use to pre-dissolve the molasses powder, but I’m basically in liquid molasses territory again. Lesson learned! Thanks Phil.
I have a simple question. Could I use my raw unpasteurized honey, that we produce on our farm, instead of molasses? Just trying to see if we can keep it in house for producing.
Nice idea, but I wouldn’t use honey. It’s low in nutrients and contains anti-microbial compounds that may actually harm the EM microbes. You could try substituting, say, 1/3 of the molasses for honey to see how that goes and compare that to a batch with all molasses, but that’s as far as I would go.