Composting is difficult. It takes forever, and it stinks. Thankfully, there is a specialty small appliance that aims to make indoor composting a thing. As smelly as that sounds, imagine a world where family food scraps become organic vegetable garden fertilizer. Better yet, it happens in under 8 hours.
Imagine no more my friends, because Vitamix claims this to be true. I’m reviewing the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50. This kitchen appliance was made for tech and gardening enthusiasts like myself. It turns food waste into nutrient-dense fertilizer within 4-8 hours. Not only do you eliminate food waste, but it also feeds your garden. This creates a perpetual, eco-friendly feeding system to grow your own food. Too good to be true? Let’s find out.
Design of the FoodCycler FC-50
At first glance, the FC-50 resembles a bread maker. It measures approximately 11”x14”x12.5” (WHD) and weighs approximately 27 lbs. The total capacity for food waste is about 68 oz.
The top lid twists to lock and unlock the unit. Inside is a bucket with a steel handle that folds down. It easily lifts and comes with a separate carbon-filtered lid. This allows you to collect scraps without exposing the smell from inside. Around the inside of the bucket is a fill line. This prevents people from over filling the bin.
Setting up the FoodCycler FC-50
To get the FoodCycler running, minor assembly is required. Thankfully, no tools are required for setup. I removed the back panel and placed two vents above the carbon filters. These filters eliminate the smell from the unit. Vitamix recommends replacing the filter three or four times a year. I’m curious to know how much smell it produces if you don’t replace the filter.
Controlling the FoodCycler FC-50
The controls are simple and intuitive. Fill it up and press the power button to start the FC-50. In operation, the FoodCycler uses a process to grind and dehydrate food scraps. This significantly reduces the food waste volume. LED lights on the top indicate which step is occurring during operation: Drying, Grinding, or Cooling. Above that is the Change Filter LED.
What food scraps can you put in the FoodCycler
The FoodCycler FC-50 is designed to compost most household food scraps. This includes coffee grounds with filters, tea bags, egg shells, and most fruits and veggies. Vitamix says it can also break down meat, fish, poultry scraps, and fish bones. However, Vitamix also recommends not putting those items in if you’re looking to create fertilizer for your garden. For that reason, I would stay clear of any meat products. My ultimate goal is to use it to make garden fertilizer out of my kitchen scraps.
The FC-50 can not break down large bones, candy or gum, cooking oils, hard pits (peaches, apricots, nectarines) nuts and other hard shells, and pineapple leaves. My advice would be to stick to fruits and veggie scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. It’s less messy and the byproduct can be used in gardens. It’s also advised to avoid high concentrations of a single food and to combine heavier food scraps with light, dryer foods.
Using the FoodCycler FC-50
I used the FoodCycler for an entire week. I wanted to see how much fertilizer I could produce in a 7-day period. Then I could accurately predict how much fertilizer I could produce during the winter months. During spring and summer, I would use the fertilizer in my outdoor gardens.
My home produces a lot of food scraps. During that week, I filled the bucket daily with egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels, and bell pepper leftovers. I set a reminder with my smart display to turn it on every night. In the morning, I removed the leftovers and placed them into a large plastic container.
The byproduct is brown and resembles soil. On average, one cycle produced approximately one cup of byproduct. Vitamix says the FoodCycler cuts down the volume of food waste by up to 90%. From my observations, that seems to be true. You can see it for yourself in the video review. It would be easy to store and collect the byproduct over a long period of time, like over winter. Personally, I would store it in a large paper bag and store in a cool dry place. This prevents mold from moisture contact.
Does the FoodCycler FC-50 produce compost for your garden?
As an avid gardener, what originally attracted me to the FoodCycler FC-50 was the byproduct it produced. On the official website it says, “The by-product can be used in gardens to enrich the soil.” However, it grinds and dries ground up food. By definition, that is not compost because there are no microbes in the by-product. The heating and drying kills any microorganisms.
To fix this problem, Vitamix offers the FoodCycler Foodilizer tablets that are sold separately as 2-packs on the Vitamix website These tablets provide the beneficial bacteria (i.e. a soil probiotic) to promote plant health in soil mixed with the FoodCycler byproduct. One tablet is dissolved in a half a litre of water and stored in a spray bottle. Once mixed with soil, users need to spray the mixed soil to add a soil probiotic.
Vitamix says one spray bottle should last an entire planting season. They recommend mixing soil with the recycled food compound at an 11:1 ratio. In addition, Vitamix suggests spraying the mix a month before planting. This allows enough time for the breakdown of nutrients.
What I like about the FoodCycler FC-50
The FoodCycler FC-50 has many great features. First, it’s very easy to use. It has only one button to operate. I also like the separate carbon-filter lid for the bin. This allows users to use it as a kitchen scrap bin while controlling the smell. Once it fills, put it back in the FoodCycler FC-50 and turn it on.
Second, it’s easy to clean and odourless. The bucket can be hand washed or put into the dishwasher. I also never had any issues with nasty smells or odours, especially with the carbon filter lid. This makes it possible to store scraps until the bucket is full. Last, I like the compact design and quiet operation. I recommend placing it on the floor in the kitchen. That makes it accessible for day-to-day use. While it does make some noise, it’s no louder than a dishwasher. I didn’t find it distracting at all.
What I don’t like about the FoodCycler FC-50
From a practical perspective, the FoodCycler has room for improvement. First, there’s no storage area for the carbon filter lid when it’s not in use. I wish there was a storage area for the lid on the side of the FoodCycler. Personally, I’d build a custom lid holder out of wood and glue it to the side. I hope future versions take a lid storage slot into account.
Second, I think it should come with the FoodCycler Foodilizer tablets. This is an expensive device, I’m surprised it didn’t come with at least one tablet. I really wanted to add soil probiotics to the food compound mixed with soil. Instead, I’m left with this byproduct that isn’t compost. Without the tablets, I’m not quite sure what to do with the byproduct.
Third, I wish it came with a second bucket. Let’s face it, with this compact design, the bucket size is limited. It fills up fast so having a secondary bucket would be super practical. Users can have one bin to fill with kitchen scraps while the other bin is in operation. This creates a perpetual food scraping system. Thankfully, users can purchase an additional bucket, but I think it should come with two.
How I would use the FoodCycler FC-50
In a perfect world, the FoodCycler would turn food scraps into compost overnight. Originally, that’s what I thought it did. However, it essentially breaks down food waste into a tenth of its original volume. Missing is the microbial process to convert waste into plant food. That’s where the FoodCycler Foodilizer Tablets come into play. But what if you’re like me and you don’t want to pay extra for the tablets?
The idea I had was bringing in worms into the equation. I would store the FoodCycler FC-50 byproduct in a worm composting bin and let the worms do their magic. If anything, what the FoodCycler FC-50 is doing is accelerating the breakdown process. I’m curious to see if worms would like the byproduct it produces. If they did, this would be an effective way to create my own worm castings. I’m not sure anyone has tried this yet, but it’s something I would definitely do with FoodCycler FC-50 in constant operation.
Who is the FoodCycler FC-50 for?
Not everyone is going to want a device like the FoodCycler FC-50. First, I think it’s for someone like me who wants to compost their organic waste. Composting the old fashion way is hard, the FoodCycler accelerates this process. To do it right, you’ll need to buy the tablets or be very patient if you put it into your garden. Don’t expect to see any results that gardening year without the tablets.
Second, it’s for someone who has available floor space in the kitchen. While it’s small, it takes up a lot of countertop space. Make sure you have a spot for it and a power source nearby. Another option is putting it in a garage. I still recommend the kitchen for practical day-to-day use.
Third, it’s for people who have issues with pests getting into their outdoor organic bins. A lot of animals like bears are attracted to the smell of food waste. This is a great way to store food scraps indoors and prevent pests from going into your green bin.
As an avid gardener, I’m very intrigued with the notion of turning food scraps into fertilizer. The FoodCycler is easy to use and a great way to condense organic household food scraps. However, I wish there was more clarity on the fertilizer claims. If you want to see instant results in your garden, you’ll need the FoodCycler Foodilizer Tablets. One its own, the byproduct is basically a condensed, pre-compost mix from food scraps. You can certainly mix it into your garden, but it still needs to be broken down by microbes.
If you’re looking for an effective way to break down food waste in the kitchen, I recommend you check out the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50. If you’re a gardener, collect and compost the leftover byproduct. Then, create your own garden fertilizer with the Foodilizer tablets, or with worms.
Food Cycler. this would be a great prize for me and my garden thanks
I love this Food Cycler. It would save lots of garbage from my kitchen. The only thing I haven’t see from Handy Andy review is the cost involved. How much are the filters for this machine and how long they last.