James BeattieProduct Review – Aerobin Compost bin

Brand: Aerobin.   Model: 400 Composting System.  Rating: 4 / 5 ✭✭✭✭✩

My 4 year old Aerobin composter

Likes: Easy to assemble. Comparatively little maintenance required in comparison to other composting systems. Makes good quality compost relatively quickly (depends very much on what materials go into it). Design eliminated the need to turn the compost, which is good for lazy gardeners! Is easier to make good compost for beginners.

Dislikes: Construction materials could be sturdier (claims to its durability have been over stated in my experience). The draining spigot is too close to the ground – the bin should be assembled on a raised platform, like a few large-format pavers, to aid draining liquid. It’s exorbitant price tag.

Overview: When it comes to home composting there now many options to choose from. The Aerobin 400 compost bin is certainly one of the more pricey options but you do get more bang for your composting buck. Firstly, the capacity of the bin is much larger than other systems at a whopping 400 Litres. This means that for the average suburban block, one bin is probably all you need. It is designed to be maintained as a hot composting system, meaning that the turnarounds between the production of useable compost are comparatively faster and easier than other bins. Claims to the Aerobin’s ability to make ‘better’ compost should be treated with a healthy amount of scepticism. With apologies to Gertrude Jekyll, compost is compost is compost.

Removing finished compost from the Aerobin is easy through the large doors

Features: One of the keys to the Aerobin’s effectiveness is grandiloquently referred to in the literature as a ‘lung’. It is essentially a segmented pipe that runs from the bottom chamber of the bin right through to the top, encouraging aerobic conditions inside the bin while discouraging the formation smelly, wet compost. It is also insulated with polystyrene, which helps to keep the heat inside the bin over the cooler months. It also has a reservoir at the base of it to collect the leachate formed in the composting process. Finally, two large doors are located at the base of the bin for easy removal of compost. The doors are large enough for easy access with a spade when it comes time to harvest your precious, black gold.

Used by whom and where: Owing to an unexpectedly large tax refund in my student days I was able to purchase the bin and have been using it for almost four years. It works well if, like me, you don’t enjoy manually turning compost bins. I live on a pretty small suburban block in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne and it easily handles all the materials I put into it. When I purchased the bin I was renting a house with a kikuyu lawn, so lawn clippings were heaped into the bin on a weekly basis in the summer time. Each week I would fill the bin to capacity and each week the materials would cook down enough to fit the next load in – no turning required.

You need to manage the ‘green to brown’ ratio of what you add to the Aerobin 400 compost bin to make good compost

Performance: Within the first couple of months a bit of trial and error was necessary to become familiar with what the bin required to work properly. It is by no means a chuck-anything-in-and-forget compost bin. A proper balance of brown and green ingredients needs to be added in order to have it work properly. When I had an abundance of lawn clippings the system became too wet very easily, so careful attention was needed to ensure the conditions in the bin didn’t become anaerobic. This was achieved with the addition of large amounts of dry ingredients such as raked up leaves, dry twigs and the odd bit of newspaper here and there. The ratio of green to brown ingredients I have found work well are a little more than half green to every dry part, so between 2:1 and 3:1. Thankfully, the house I’m now paying off came complete with two medium deciduous trees and a grape vine-covered pergola, which provide me with almost enough brown matter to last me all year. The leaves and grape vine canes live in bags in the shed and are added to the bin when necessary.

A note on the leachate reservoir at the bin’s base: I’ve never experienced the bin to produce any liquid in great quantities. Which is a good thing because the spigot used to harvest the liquid is impossibly low to the ground, so much so that I imagine collecting the liquid would require a McGiver-like ingenuity to get at it. Compost tea, as I’ve previously written about on GardenDrum, is not all it is purported to be, so I’m not put out by my bin’s lack of leachate.

While the design of the bin is groundbreaking as far as compost bins go, I feel the design could be a little tighter. There are many nooks and crannies in the frame that spiders like to take up residence in, not least of which are the handles on lid. I always make sure I use gloves when dealing with the bin to ensure I don’t get nipped by an errant arachnid.

On a final note, the bin is not vermin proof. I found this out the hard way when a pair of mice took up residence in the bin and soon burgeoned into an extended family. The solution I came up with was to drill small holes in the leachate reservoir and block up the spigot hole completely. Sacrificing leachate for vermin-proofing, for me, was a small sacrifice to make. This problem can also be avoided by mounting the bin on a hard surface, such as pavers or concrete.

Specifications:

Dimensions: 740mm x 740mm x 1200mm when assembled

Capacity: 400L

Patented ‘lung’ inside the bin eliminates the need for turning the contents.

Where to buy:

Many online retailers sell the bin, as well as most garden centres and nurseries.

Price guide: $350 – $380 RRP

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James Beattie

About James Beattie

James is a horticulturist working in the Melbourne area. His work in the industry has included landscape planting design, hard landscaping, bushland management, garden consulting as well as extensive experience in the horticultural media. He worked for four years as one of the horticultural guns for hire behind the scenes at ABC TV's Gardening Australia program and has been a semi-regular guest on Melbourne's 3CR Gardening Show (855 AM). You can follow his whimsical garden musings at Horticologist

35 thoughts on “Product Review – Aerobin Compost bin

  1. Jacko on said:

    I pretty much agree with the above review. We bought an AeroBin 200 from WormsRUs and it seems to work pretty well. Certainly the best static type compost bin in it’s class. I like the insulated walls feature. No mice problems though. Yea had to place it on a solid surface, That’s what the instructions say to do. I saw the Swinburne study on compost bins and the AeroBin convincingly beat the competition overall, though it did not always score top points in some areas.

  2. Tim on said:

    The one tricky thing I have found is getting the right temperature mix with hot composting. I agree with James’s comments that, the right mix of greens and browns seems to effect the composting process and hence how much heat the AeroBin generates. I’m only an amateur gardener, however I prefer to measure compost pH. temperature / moisture with long probe meter to get a rough idea on the pH, core temperatures and moisture levels inside the AeroBin. We use a 4 in 1 soil meter which I find quite useful, even though it only serves as a rough guide, but it beats guess work.

  3. Mike on said:

    We keep our AeroBin 400 on old bricks, which seems to help make it more sturdy. We don’t get many compost worms because the AeroBin is elevated off the ground, however we keep a Vermihut worm farm going on the side for our kitchen scraps and use it to stock up our AeroBin with compost worms, from time to time.

    We tend to use our AeroBin more for organic garden matter, grass, leaves etc… The worm farm handles more of the kitchen scraps, however they complement each other as an overall solution to green waste management.

    • Jennyroseanne on said:

      I’m so happy to read that you’ve been able to keep compost worms alive in your Aerobin … I’ve been tempted to put some red wrigglers in ours but worried I would just be sacrificing them from our worm bin if it didn’t work out. I wonder if they successfully multiply in the compost bin? Does anyone have experience with this?

      • James Beattie on said:

        Hi Jenny,

        When friends moved to the country I scored their vermicastings, half of which I added to the Aerobin. The eggs in it soon hatched and I now have a very healthy population of them. Five years later they’re abundant.

  4. Gary on said:

    We’ve had our AeroBin for a few years now and it’s still going strong. Admittedly we don’t do a huge amount of composting, as we only have a small garden, but it’s good to have that extra capacity in case we need it. Also it means we don’t overload the compost bin. Works well in winter, so I guess those insulated walls of the AeroBin do help keep it warm inside.

    We’ve owned some of the cheaper compost bins in the past, however the AeroBin is the best we’ve had so far. It’s clear that considerable design has gone into the AeroBin compared to the other cheap bins ( basically just a bin with a lid ) The AeroBin has an aerated core and liquid compost collection tray with tap, which I think are worth paying extra for. Generally speaking you pay for what you get and the convenience of having the liquid compost fertiliser on tap, saves allot of time messing around with making liquid fertiliser preparations by hand.

  5. Liz on said:

    We use a Bokashi Bin for kitchen scraps, however we do have an old AeroBin and we often empty the Bokashi Bin kitchen scraps into it. The Aero Bin serves as a refinement process to help further break down the waste scraps into good compost for our garden. This also saves us time, as we don’t have to bury the Bokashi scraps in the garden.

    Overall I agree with review, the AeroBin is an excellent composting choice, for beginners and even experienced composters, however I do think generally, effective composting can be a bit of an art, though yes the AeroBin with it’s features, does help make the process easier to manage. When you get good quality compost, it’s very rewarding.

  6. Jules on said:

    I do agree with James, that this is a more expensive compost system, however it does seem to offer much more than the rest of the bins out there. We have an AeroBin 200 which suits us for our small unit. I must say it’s a nice looking compost bin, if you are concerned about that sort of thing. Composting away and already we have some nice compost for our small garden, soon after 8 weeks. We have put in a few compost worms we got from a friend, that seem to be multiplying now, so they seem to be helping things along.

    Don’t know how the AeroBin 200 compares to the AeroBin 400, other than being smaller, but we are very happy with it and like the advanced features it has, that other bins simply don’t have. i.e. airflow core, insulated walls, liquid compost collection with tap etc… Pretty cool features that save us time and seem to offer better results overall. I just wouldn’t bother with those cheap compost bins anymore, now I’ve tried the AeroBin. I lead a busy life so, the time and effort saved with the AeroBin, more than makes up for it’s higher price.

  7. Mona on said:

    I have read the reviews with interest and so far like what I see. I have been composting for many years so I now get the ratio pretty well. I have learned that compost needs to be well seasoned before using especially in vegetable gardens. I add to the pile almost daily and am concerned that the compost will be seasoned enough. I imagine that the compost on the bottom will be ready to use?

  8. Julia on said:

    Cockroaches and slater beatles infest my aerobin 200. Any ideas about how to control these unwanted additions to my composting. Other than the above the bin works really well.

    • James Beattie on said:

      Cockroaches will infest the bin if it’s too too dry, in my experience. Slaters always seem to be present in varying populations throughout the year. I tend not to worry about them – they aid decomposition so their presence is not a problem (the chooks go crazy when pull the side of the bin!).

      Slaters, interestingly, are one of the few land-dwelling crustaceans on the planet – they’re not technically insects. I feel pretty privileged that they’re shacking up in my bin!

  9. Johno on said:

    Save your money and buy a tumbler……aero not worth a cracker.

    • Debbie on said:

      I disagree, we bought a tumbler and the handle broke of after only 1 year of use and it was $180.00 You can’t buy just the handle. We are going to try the Aerobin ourselves

      • Gary, Simi Valley, CA. on said:

        We too have a tumbler, the rotating gear was flimsy and the bottom blew out a couple of months ago. We have a AeroBin 400 being delivered tomorrow. Looking forward to it. We love composting as we have 4 in our family and it makes yard and kitchen scraps disappear. Plus we have wonderful healthy soil to use.

  10. Brad on said:

    Tumblers are OK, but not very efficient at composting. Also you don’t get worms in them. Nothing wrong with roaches and slaters in the garden, they feed off the organic waste. So long as they stay in the garden. They are just part of the food chain. Make sure the AeroBin is on a solid brick slab full dimensions of the bins base or a cement slab. Don’t put it on the ground i.e. grass or soil. Worst case, you could get a tray and flood it with water, then put the bricks / slab in the tray and then the bin on the bricks. Many will drown if they try to get in. You could try adding some lime around the base and in the bottom section of the bin, which might deter the bugs.

    • James Beattie on said:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, Brad! It’s all about diversity. Too often do we see critters and quickly conclude they’re a problem. Slaters and roaches will aid composting. I find slaters in the bottom of the bin, never in the middle or top. In other words, they only seem to proliferate in the ripe compost – I would even go as far to say that in my bin they’re an indicator that the compost’s ready to use!

  11. Tom on said:

    Anything mechanical like a tumbler bin is doomed to fail much sooner than a static compost bin with no moving parts. There’s no evidence that tumblers are better composters. They don’t attract bugs and worms which actually help with the decomposition process. They don’t hot compost well when their operators turn them too much. Headlines for tumblers producing compost in a few weeks are advertising hyperbole at best. I’ve heard and read of many stories of rusted and broken parts from compost tumblers. I just wouldn’t touch one with a barge pole.

    There are many rubbishy cheap composting products on the market that don’t compost well. The cheap bins have poor airflow and under perform. Pretty much anything under 100 bucks you will generally find does not have good airflow in the bin category. Tumblers just don’t last.

    We were considering an AeroBin, either the 200 litre of 400 litre unit as it seemed the only decent compost bin product on the market. In the end though we decided to get a tradesmen in to hand build 3 compost pits that we could rotate. They were built of cement slab and cemented bricks and a mesh gate fronting each pit. Hmm quite an elaborate system almost costing us $1000, but it works well. Still a bit of effort shovelling the compost and unfortunately we can’t capture the drainage compost juice to help feed our plants, but overall we are happy with it. Failing this approach I would probably have gone with a couple of AeroBin 400s as we have a fairly large block, so get lots of garden waste for composting.

  12. Monica on said:

    My local salvos has an aerobin 400 for sale for $50, i thought that was a bit pricey for a 2nd hand compost bin but now i’m tempted to go back & buy it. On the topic of slaters, i have heaps of them in my vegie patch & they’re eating the leaves off my broccoli, silverbeet, bok choy & carrots. What can i do to get rid of them?

  13. Lorraine on said:

    Very disappointed with bin. Flimsy construction. Does not lock together well. Extremely expensive for what it is. Stay away. Waste of money.

  14. Hugh on said:

    I am looking for a guide that shows how to disassemble the aerobin. I have been given one, but need to relocate it to my place. So far I have the lid and two lower side panels in hand, but the fixed panels are proving to be unmovable.

    • Hi Hugh – have you tried the system used in this video? The secret seems to be the direction in which you lever the panels apart. A screwdriver into each corner, with outward leverage from the inside and simultaneous upward leverage from the outside seems to be the trick. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvYHIs1S4rA

      • Hugh on said:

        Thnx Catherine… I am really disturbed at not being able to locate the ass/dissemble YT vids… normally I’m pretty cunning at finding most things like this. Maybe I should always follow a search for same with “youtube”. Sorry it took so long for me to find your post, I have not received an eml note to say you’d commented.

          • Hugh on said:

            Perhaps you might be interested in Permaculture ? I’m with Transition Sydney at the Bondi group… http://transitionbondi.org/ and we keep a veggi garden behind the units at 241 Bondi Road and 5 x box gardens of veggis on the corner of Boonara Ave.

  15. justin coxhead on said:

    We found this the most useless piece of equipment we have purchased. Most difficult to assemble and when it fell apart, impossible to re-assemble. Design is absurd. It is now part of landfill, hopefully composting itself away. Would never recommend.

    • Hugh Ellens on said:

      I got mine pre-assembled second hand surplus to requirements rather than because it was seen as useless. Having to transport the model 400 dis-assembled, I found dis-assembly / re-assembly a breeze after watching the YT video. Since establishment in my yard on a raised base, I am very happy with its performance. All one needs to do is use a corkscrew winder to aerate the contents AND get the green / brown mix correct; e.g. nitrogen to carbon.

  16. Am old and been a composter for years. Got my first bin over ten years ago and have moved several times with the bin. Basic composting rules apply so you need to follow them after several shifts the bin does get a bit out of shape. I have put baler twine but any rope will do to hold the doors in. Always composts well and I am not a perfectionist. Try putting the base on 2 pallets one on top of each other. This provides stability and height for the leachate tap and hose. Do not leave the compost when ready to use in the bin for months or it will go hard. I use a fork to stir the top layers as I add mix to help the process Not much work but it helps.

  17. Vicki on said:

    I was given a bin when the previous owner moved. They never had good compost out of it but I was certain I would. Well to date I have a lot of dry matter. It has food scraps, green grass horse poo and I think I put some leaf matter in too. Opened the bottom up after 6 months. Dry, so dry! Even though it has reduced down all I could see was dry matter. Over the summer I watered it a few times as it gets very hot and windy where I am. Any tips before I chuck it in landfill?

    • James Beattie on said:

      Hi Vicki,

      Where do you have the bin? If it’s in full sun it could be getting cooked over the summer, which would cause it to dry out really quickly. It’s meant to be a closed system but water can leak from it after it reaches a certain age.

      If you’re feeding food scraps, horse poo and green grass into it in great quantities I’m surprised it’s on the dry side – if anything the opposite should be true!

      It sounds to me like you need more nitrogen-rich ingredients. You can even try giving it a watering can of fish emulsion once a week to try and kick it along.

      If it is in full sun, move it first and see how you go. Otherwise pile in more green and use a fish emulsion once a week to see if you can get it cranking.

      • Vicki on said:

        There is only the 2 of us so not a lot of green waste. I will try the fish emulsion. It is partial sun a tree is on the north facing side so blocked from the harshest sun. I will mow the grass as soon as we get some dry days and see how that goes.

  18. Laura Willett on said:

    Thank you for this blog. I have found it very interesting. I picked up a second hand Aerobin 400, today – feels like Christmas came early!! I have followed advice and placed it on a firm base. I intend to add my own worms. I am very much looking forward to get composting!! Thanks for everyone’s input, it has been invaluable, to me.

  19. David on said:

    We had our aero bin for 15 years and it is still going strong, however there was a bonus today. I picked a second hand aero bin for free, so we can now run them in tandem

  20. Lois on said:

    Had my aerobin 6 years have lots off worms but also slugs is that a problem?

  21. Peter Raymond on said:

    We bought an Aerobin 400 about 8 years ago. It was set up on a concrete plinth about 3″ (75 mm) thick. As I was retired from my business I had a large number of files to shred and the shreddings from these helped the Aerobin to operate.
    Diggers, a local nursery and property also ran an Aerobin and discussing experience with one of the staff there I learned that the ratio of dry to green cuttings had to be about 3 to 1. They also said that the composting process worked better if the waste material was layered, so I began layering by keeping layers about 2″ (50 mm) thick. This is where the shredder helped. I used to empty the lower half of the bin by running steel rods through the compacted mass of compost right at the top of the door openings and supported on both sides by ropes over the top. This allowed me to dig out the finished compost without having the ‘unprocessed’ material falling onto the processed compost. I used a narrow shovel which was designed to dig narrow trenches. The bottom compartment only gathers leachate when the waste material is pretty wet. I would like to see new Aerobins fitted with some holes in the sides so that I can fit the steel rods before opening the doors to empty the lower half. I would expect that these holes had plugs supplied so that they could be closed when not in use. I would also expect that holes were provided for about four rod, since with only two it is a race to extract the processed compost before the material in the top half begins to fall down, probably from drying out a bit when the doors are open.
    There are plenty of worms in the bin as well as some slugs and the occasional snail. Earwigs also seem to thrive, as do slaters. The processed material usually comes out almost like soil but some bits seem to survive the process like avocado seeds, and the ubiquitous plastic bags/labels. But they can be easily collected and disposed of.

  22. Tom Williams on said:

    I’ve searched around and the AeroBin seems to be available for purchase from a few retailers like WormsRUs, however they are the only ones that appear to have stock I think due in April 2017. All other retailers seem to be out of stock and I think Masters was the last other suppliers who, don’t seemt to have endured.

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