Best Compost Bin Designs:
Top Picks by Category

The best compost bin for you depends on your circumstances. For the best one-two combination, our favorite compost tumbler along with a sturdy, odor-free kitchen pail are the front-runners, but enclosed bins and open-air bins are also extremely useful (especially if you have a lot of yard waste) and may be more appropriate for your situation...

Qualities to Look for in Compost Containers

At a minimum, the best compost bin designs…

Pre-Made Compost

If you’re just now getting your compost piles ready but are itching to start your garden, there’s no need to wait!

composting instructions

Good pre-made compost can be purchased to give your plants the nutrients they need while your homemade composting operation is getting underway.

  • Prevent the weather from ruining your piles – This includes both precipitation and wind. Most compost containers will prevent your pile from blowing away, but the level of rain protection will vary. But keep in mind that just because your bin is “open air” (has no top or allows air in through the sides) doesn’t mean that it’s not effective. Depending on your situation, open air compost bins may actually be preferable.
  • Prevent animals from rummaging through your piles – Animals such as deer love to rummage through compost to go after your discarded kitchen scraps.
  • Allow your pile to heat up to the appropriate level – Regardless of whether you’re building hot piles or cold piles, your containers should allow for the buildup of enough heat… at least 70 degrees F (21 C). Generally speaking, the bigger the container, the hotter your pile can get.
  • Allow for proper aeration – The organisms responsible for converting your piles into garden-ready compost require air to survive. Good compost bins either allow proper airflow on their own or provide easy access for you to regularly turn the pile.

Let’s review each of the best compost bin designs and how they address these points…

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The Best Compost Bin Designs

The following chart compares each of the best compost bin designs (click the links in the far left column for more about the best-reviewed products; click the links in the far right column for our dedicated pages for each type)...

Best Compost Bin Designs Weather Animals Heat- Retention Aeration Size GA Web Page(s)
Enclosed Compost Barrels/Bins Keep out rain and wind Keep out most animals "Cold" composting Manual turning with shovel/ fork Med. Composting Barrel & Bin
Compost Tumblers Keep out rain and wind Keep out all animals "Hot" composting* Build in bin rotator Med. Tumbler composter
Open-Air Compost Bins Keep out wind (made to let in rain) Keep out some animals "Hot" composting Manual turning with shovel/ fork Large Composting Barrel & Bin
Worm Composting Bins

The compost derived from worm composting bins is superior to “normal” compost in several ways. It produces worm excrements (called castings) that combine the dirt and organic material consumed by worms, which provide readily-available soil nutrients and have a texture that is unrivaled in terms of drainage and water and nutrient retention.

Their primary downside is the amount of compost that can be created per bin. The best advice is to combine a “best of both worlds” approach: use worm compost (also called vermicompost) selectively to improve your garden soil where it’s needed most while more liberally using the more abundant compost from your cold and hot pile bins.

Worm Composter

 

Worms for sale

Kitchen Compost Pail/Bin Intended for indoor use n/a - intended to store kitchen waste until dumped into compost pile Small Kitchen Compost Pail

For more information about hot and cold composting, see How to Make Hot Compost & Cold Composting in 10 Easy Steps

*Our favorite compost tumbler is insulated, which allows hot composting. Most tumblers are not insulated and are only used for cold composting.

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