Turning over your compost mixture is essential for great results – but it can be hard work! If you’re looking for an easier life, a tumbling composter can be a great investment.
We’ll take you on a tour of some of the best compost tumbler available today. Then check out our buying guide to make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.
For us, one of the real joys of gardening is watching the lifecycle of your plants. Whether you’re nurturing them from seedlings, or transplanting established shrubs, it’s so rewarding to watch them change and grow.
And it gives us enormous satisfaction to know that, even at the end of their lives, plants can still be useful. Using dead and dying vegetation to make compost that will nourish new growth is, to us, a little miracle. And of course, it’s also a great way to dispose of grass clippings or kitchen scraps.
Unfortunately, getting great compost isn’t always easy. We’ve opened that little door on our composter plenty of times hoping to find rich, dark soil. Instead, there’s been slimy, smelly sludge. We certainly weren’t going to be spreading that on our flowerbeds any time soon!
A bit of internet research showed us where we were going wrong. We hadn’t been turning our compost regularly. That, it turns out, is important to spread heat and air through the whole compost heap. It also makes sure any moisture drains away – avoiding the stinky mess we’d found before.
But there was a problem: turning the compost in our traditional compost bin meant digging around with a fork. It was awkward to do – so of course, we didn’t do it as often as we should have.
We were sure there had to be an easier way. When more internet searches came up with compost tumblers, we knew we’d struck composting gold! A simple turn of the barrel and the compost was mixed around perfectly in a matter of seconds.
The next question was which was the best compost tumbler to choose. If you’ve been wondering the same thing, wonder no more – we’re here to help! We’ve checked out the top models available today, and we’re going to take you through their features.
Best Compost Tumbler Reviews of 2019
1. FCMP Outdoor IM4000 Tumbling Composter, 37 Gallon Black (Yimby Tumbler Composter) (Our Top Recommended)
FCMP Outdoor were among the first manufacturers of tumbling composters, and their experience is evident in the IM4000. This good-sized composter has a host of features to help you get great quality compost every time.
To start with, the generous 37-gallon capacity comes from two separate composting chambers, both holding 18.5 gallons. That means you can fill up one side and leave it to decay, whilst putting new waste into the second chamber.
It will give you a continuous supply of compost. What’s more, you won’t be opening and shutting the chamber door during composting, interfering with the process. FCMP say that, with the right ingredients and sunny weather, you can get compost in as little as two weeks.
The composting chambers are octagonal, avoiding materials sticking to the insides of the barrel as it turns. (Imagine watching clothes spinning in a washing machine to understand the problems you can have with cylindrical versions.) There are plenty of holes to let in air, keeping the oxygen flowing to all parts of the compost mixture.
The openings to the chambers are a decent size, allowing you to add garden and kitchen waste easily. And if you need more room to maneuver you can take the door off completely. That’s a handy feature if you’re emptying out grass cuttings from your lawnmower basket.
There are deep fins on the sides of the barrels to make turning them easy. And they work just as well as handholds if you need to move the composter to a new position.
The body of the composter is made of thick polypropylene, and it stands on galvanized steel legs. The combination means it should stand up to both bright sunshine and pouring rain.
The plastic here is BPA-free, so you don’t need to worry about those chemicals leaching into your compost. It’s recycled too, making production kinder to the environment.
2. Envirocycle Mini Composting Tumbler Bin and Compost Tea Maker
The downside of its diminutive size is that there’s only one chamber. That will hold a fairly modest 17 gallons. If you want to add new garden waste without interrupting composting, you’ll need to buy a second composter.
The Envirocycle has an innovative dual system providing two types of compost. This allows you to remove liquid “compost tea” from the base, with traditional compost from the main chamber.
As it stands knee-high, though, bear in mind that you’ll need to bend down to turn it. You’ll also need to remove the top part of the composter in order to empty out the compost tea.
The opening is large enough to fit in a shovel. Its position low to the ground makes this the best way to empty it. By the time it’s full, it will be too heavy to lift and maneuver.
Envirocycle have put a lot of effort into making sure that their composters are BPA free. The areas that come into direct contract with the compost and compost tea are made from a plastic called HDPE. This doesn’t contain BPA, but it is also subjected to an 11 stage filtration process to remove impurities.
Like FCMP’s IM4000, the plastic here has been recycled, reducing the plastic waste that is so damaging to the environment. It’s a sturdy machine too, that should give years of successful composting.
Envirocycle’s customer service is also worth a mention.
We’ve heard from people who’d used their composter for years before bad weather or robust use caused a fault. Contacting the manufacturer for advice on replacement parts, they were astonished to be offered a replacement composter for free. It’s a standard of service that’s a real selling point.
3. Spin Bin Composter Barrel Style Tumbler Compost Bin, 60 Gallon, Black
The second largest composter on our list, the Spin Bin looks exactly as you’d expect from its name. A large, single-chambered barrel swivels on a metal frame, and holds up to 60 gallons of compostable material.
If you’ve got a big garden with large quantities of waste, its size alone makes it a worthy contender. Bear in mind, though, that when it’s full it will be pretty heavy. You may find you need to swing it back and fore to build momentum before you can rotate it completely.
To keep it moving easily, don’t add too much moist material, and don’t leave it too long between turns. If you do, you may find the material compacts into a big lump at the bottom. There’s a pole through the center that helps mix the materials and air when the composter is turned.
Keeping the air flowing through the barrel is particularly important in a composter this large. The Spin Bin deals with this by having no fewer than 20 aeration and drainage holes. There are also four ports for a thermometer, allowing you to easily check the composting temperature.
There are lids at each end, so that materials can be added whichever end of the barrel is on top. Those lids are tight-fitting, protecting the contents from rodents and other pests.
The plastic barrel is black, helping it absorb heat from the sun and speeding up composting. There’s no reference to that plastic being BPA-free, though. If you’re worried about chemical leaching and plan to use your compost on fruit or vegetables, choose a different option.
You’ll need to do a little assembly with this one. The legs need to be attached to the barrel, which means a bit of work with a screwdriver.
This is a composter that works best for “batch” composting. In other words, collect the right mix of greenery and woody compostable materials and stick them all in together, and you’ll get great results.
If you’ve got large grounds, and somewhere to store compostable materials while one batch is “cooking”, this one’s worth considering.
4. Miracle-Gro Dual Chamber All Season Compost Tumbler, 2 x 18.5 Gallon
It’s another dual chamber model, allowing you to add materials to the second chamber while compost is “cooking” in the first. Like the IM4000, it’s a polygon – in this case, there are six sides instead of eight. It means the materials are less likely to stick to the sides throughout a rotation than with a cylindrical barrel.
It’s raised from the floor on sturdy metal legs. As composters go, it’s a striking looking thing, with the twin doors in Miracle-Gro green and yellow.
Those doors are big too – about ten inches, compared to six on comparable composters. They’re still not big enough for a standard shovel, but you shouldn’t really need one. Each chamber turns independently, and it’s easy to tip it up and remove the compost when it’s ready.
More of an issue with the doors is that they’re not as sturdy as some. Avoid adding too much moist material, or you may find the weight leads to it escaping when you turn it. And if you have squirrels in your garden, you may prefer doors that are held in place with a clip.
Because the chambers move separately, you’ll only be turning a maximum of 18.5 gallons of compostable material. That means it requires far less muscle power than a larger composter like the Spin Bin. There’s also a locking mechanism to keep it steady when needed.
There are central paddles in each chamber too. These help to avoid the compost mixture from clumping together, and helps the air flow right through. On the downside, greenery can get caught around the paddles.
This is another composter where you’ll need to do a bit of assembly. Miracle-Gro says it will take about 20 to 30 minutes to put it together. It can take longer though, and it’s a lot easier if you can call on an extra pair of hands.
5. FCMP Outdoor HF-DBC4000 Dual Body HOTFROG Tumbling Composter, 37 Gallon
The second tumbling composter from FCMP to make our list, the Hotfrog is another dual chamber model. The shape though, is different. Rather than being octagonal, it’s round. The sides aren’t completely smooth: there are deep indents to avoid material clumping together.
The total capacity is 37 gallons, shared between two equal sized compartments. It provides a good balance between composting reasonable amounts of material, while still being light enough to maneuver easily. Deep fins on the outside provide handholds to turn the chambers smoothly, even when they’re full.
Significantly bigger than the Envirocycle composter, it’s still compact enough to sit comfortably on a back porch. The doors close up tight too, so you won’t have to worry about pests being attracted to your kitchen scraps.
Those doors are labeled “start” and “finish”. This clever touch means you won’t have to worry about opening the wrong door and interfering with your composting.
The openings are generous, and like the IM4000, the doors can be removed altogether. That provides more flexibility to fit in a shovel. You could even get in there and mix things around by hand if you wanted to.
And while we know this isn’t the top priority, it’s worth saying that this is a funky looking composter. The body is black – great for absorbing heat and speeding up the composting process. The doors are in contrasting green, in keeping with the Hotfrog logo, and they coordinate with the powdered steel legs.
The chambers are made of polypropylene. The material is BPA free, so you won’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into the compost. It’s designed to be resistant to UV rays too, so it won’t degrade in strong sunshine.
Last but not least, the legs hold the chambers well above the ground. That means it’s easy to fit a bucket or other container underneath when it’s time to empty out the compost.
6. EJWOX Dual Chamber Garden Compost Bin Tumbler, 43 Gallon
There’s a fair bit of assembly required with this one. The body is constituted of seven separate panels, and there are the ends, doors and metal frame to assemble too. It isn’t difficult to do, but expect it to take around an hour.
The chamber is black, good for absorbing solar heat. There’s a choice of colorways for the doors. You can either go for a minimalist approach with black doors too, or a contrasting option with bright green.
The doors close up tight to keep out rodents and other pests. They’re also watertight, so you won’t have to worry about soggy compost even if the heavens open. And there’s a locking mechanism, so you can hold the chambers in place when you’re not turning them.
There are actually two styles available with this composter. In one, the doors of the two chambers are aligned with each other. In the second, they’re offset at different levels, and are slightly bigger.
The doors in the first model suffer from their smaller size. They measure 10.23 by 6.1 inches. You’ll need to be fairly careful if you’re emptying in large bags of garden or kitchen waste. Fail to get them lined up properly with the doors, and you’ll find yourself with a mess.
The second model will give you doors measuring 10.6 inches high by 8.5 inches across. The difference isn’t huge, but in our view, it makes this a more user-friendly option.
The chambers are held over a foot above the ground by a heavy duty steel frame. That means there’s enough clearance to get a bucket or wheeled trolley underneath to empty out the compost easily.
And if you’re worried about BPA from plastic composters, you don’t need to with this model. All the parts that come into contact with the compost are BPA-free.
7. Mantis CT02001 Compact ComposTumbler
Unlike the other composters, with their plastic chambers, this one is made of powder-coated steel. The end caps are made of food-grade plastic, and the frame is tubular steel. You won’t need to worry about chemicals leaching from plastic – whether BPA or other kinds. And it won’t warp in the heat.
All that steel makes this is a heavier weight option, weighing 60 pounds when empty. You won’t want to be moving it around once it’s in position. It’s also more expensive than other composters, costing twice as much as others on our list.
It’s sage green in color, sacrificing absorbing heat from the sun to blend its bulk into the garden landscape. The steel is galvanized, so it’s resistant to rust. That doesn’t mean, though, that it won’t rust eventually. Moist garden waste and composting heat will take its toll in time, but you can expect several years of use.
You might worry that a composter this size might be hard to rotate. Indeed, that can be a problem even with smaller tumblers. The Mantis deals with this by providing a gear-driven handle. It makes it easy to turn, even when the composter is fully loaded.
The door opening is a generous size, making removing the compost at the end of the process super-simple. There’s plenty of room underneath for a container big enough to hold it all too. And there’s an air vent at the top to keep the oxygen flowing.
The enclosed drum and latched door will also keep rodents and other pests at bay. Drainage vents get rid of excess moisture and avoid the formation of sludge.
This isn’t the cheapest composter and it won’t last forever. But it’s a strong performer as a composter that successfully blends extra-large capacity with ease of use.
So how do all these features match up against what you need in your garden? We’re going to take you through the questions to ask yourself to decide which tumbling composter is right for you.
How do you compost?
Start by considering how you compost. What do we mean by that? Well, do you want to be able to add kitchen scraps or garden waste over a long period of time? Or do you want to compost in batches – for example, filling up the composter after a major tidy up?
If you want to regularly add materials to your composter, consider a dual chamber version. That will allow you to start filling up the second chamber while the second is composting.
If you have only one chamber, you’ll be opening it up to add new material during the composting process. Admitting cold air will slow things down, and you’ll never get to the finish line. And if you do want to remove the compost, you’ll have to try and filter out the part-decayed material.
An alternative, if you have space, is to buy a second composter. And if you go for a smaller model, like the Envirocycle, that might not take up too much extra room.
A large single chamber, on the other hand, will give you more space to fit in large amounts of material. If you’ve got a large garden or generate lots of kitchen waste, that might be the better option.
And consider whether you want the option of liquid fertilizer. Some composters give you the ability to collect that separately. Others will produce only solid compost.
How much effort can you put into composting?
Tumbling composters are designed to take the strain out of getting air to the compost mixture. You shouldn’t need to get in there with a rake – just turn the chamber and it does the work for you.
But some composters are easier to use than others. If you’ve got one with large capacity, it will get heavy when it’s full. The elongated Spin Bin is designed to help you work up momentum by swinging it to and fro. The Mantis goes one better, with a gear-driven handle to make rotation easy.
Smaller composters can be lighter, but check the way they work.
The Envirocycle composter, for example, sits directly on the ground. You’ll need to get down fairly low to turn it – so anyone with mobility issues may struggle. You’ll also need to move the barrel on top to access the compartment for the liquid compost.
Most composters, though, sit on a frame that raises them above the ground. Check whether there’s a locking mechanism to hold it in place when you’ve finished turning it. That will help keep it stable.
Another thing to consider for off-ground composters is how much clearance there is underneath. The easiest way of emptying out compost is directly into a container below it. So check how much room you’ll have to fit something in place.
What kind of environment will your composter sit in?
Consider where your composter will be located. Do you need something small enough to sit on a back porch? Or is it going to be tucked away at the bottom of the garden where you can fit something bigger?
Is the ground level? The Envirocycle composter won’t cope with steep slopes. Others with flimsier construction will struggle too. If you’ve got a slope to contend with, invest in something with a broad base and low center of gravity.
Remember too that composters can be a magnet for pests. Rats, squirrels, foxes – and even, in some areas, bears – can all be attracted to kitchen leftovers. Make sure that the doors are tight fitting and have a proper latch to keep them shut. That’s important to avoid unpleasant odors in the garden too.
What kind of weather conditions will your composter be facing? In hot climates, composting will be much faster. If you’re having to contend with colder temperatures, a black finish will absorb the sun’s rays and help it along.
If you’re in an area of heavy rainfall, a plastic composter will be more durable than one made of metal. If you’re looking at steel options, look for ones that are galvanized or powder-coated.
If, on the other hand, you’re in an area with strong sunlight, plastic composters can degrade. Some composters, like those from FCMP Outdoor, use UV-resistant plastics to inhibit that process. If you’re lucky enough to get lots of sunshine in your garden, it’s worth considering one of those.
Finally, bear in mind the aesthetics of your choice.
Even smaller composters aren’t tiny, so think about how it’s going to look in your garden. If you don’t have an out-of-the-way corner to hide it in, consider something in a finish that will blend in. Mantis’s tumbling composter, for example, comes in sage green to blend into the foliage.
Ease of assembly
Not all composters are created equal when it comes to assembly. Some, like the Envirocycle, don’t require any assembly at all. Others are really a two-person job.
Consider how long you’re prepared to spend putting together your composter. Some will also need a fair bit of space to lay out all the parts. And you might need some simple tools too.
Check out customer reviews to find out how people have found the experience. People will often comment on how easy instructions were to follow, or if they’ve had to make their own adjustments. Even a great composter won’t be the right choice if the assembly is enough to give you a nervous breakdown.
What happens if something goes wrong?
Things don’t always go as planned – so what happens if your composter needs replacement or repair?
It’s always a good idea to take a look at the terms of the warranty that’s on offer. These can vary significantly.
The Mantis comes with a two-year warranty, and it covers every part of the composter. Impressively, EJWOX offers a 100 percent refund or replacement guarantee for any product over its whole lifetime. You will, though, have to cover postage costs.
It’s also worth checking reviews to see how those warranties are backed up when things go wrong. Ecosystem has won plaudits from customers for standing behind their products and offering replacements – even when faults have developed after years of use.
Ready to choose?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the best compost tumblers to give you great nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden.
A major advantage of tumblers is their ability to take the effort out of composting. But as we’ve seen, there are plenty of other factors that can lead to more work. Check how easy they are to turn, whether you can fit a container underneath, and how generous the doors are.
Our top pick is FCMP Outdoor’s IM4000. It offers good capacity, great design and robust BPA-free construction – and all at a reasonable price.
Whichever option you choose, we hope you’ll soon be turning your garden and kitchen waste into wonderful compost!