Is An Electric Composter Right For You? – Honest Vitamix Foodcycler Review
Have you been curious about an electric composter? Well, we’ve tried the Vitamix Foodcycler for a while now, and wanted you to hear our honest thoughts. This honest review post will cover everything from what an electric composter does to specific details on the Vitamix Foodcycler.
If you track sustainable living movements or follow eco-friendly products, then you’ve likely heard of an electric composter or countertop composter by now. I know that’s how I stumbled onto it. We were looking for a composting solution to work with our lifestyle that would enable us to close the loop at home and not require too much work. We wanted to reap the benefits of having compost and soil amendments for our suburban home garden without the effort of a traditional compost pile. As serial DIYers, we always want to try to do things ourselves instead of pay others to create things like compost for us.
After lots of research, we decided to get an electric composter, specifically the Vitamix Foodcycler FC-50. So after having used it for 6 months, we wanted to share our honest thoughts and review of the product. We do this to help others understand what a product does, who it’s best suited for, our general thoughts, and the lessons we learned. This product solution won’t be for everyone but definitely can help so many reduce their food waste.
Fair warning, this is a long review post to try to cover any thoughts we had and questions that could come up. Use the table of contents to jump around if needed. If you’re looking for the super short and sweet answer, then read our review summary below! Otherwise let’s dive into all you need to know about electric composters, the Vitamix Foodcycler, and what we think about it.
Electric composters don’t actually generate compost due to high heat but create soil amendment by-products that can be utilized in gardens, pots, and planting beds after a short period.
The Vitamix Foodcycler FC-50 is a great compact alternative for traditional composting methods if you can utilize the soil amendment by-product. If you can’t use the soil amendment by-product or give it to someone with a garden to utilize, then you may consider a different solution to reducing your food waste.
The Foodcycler is efficient, takes little skill, and allows for even meats and dairy to be composted. For our family and many others, it can be a great way for people to reduce food waste in their homes and make an impact on the global food waste issue.
Why Is Composting Important?
In general, composting is a critical part of reducing the immense global issue of food waste.
In the U.S. alone, approximately 40% of food is lost or wasted and accounts for 24% of solid waste in landfills. And if it’s in the landfill, it’s not decomposing properly and contributing to greenhouse gas production.
There is a need for a massive culture change Luckily, there are tons of composting solutions out there from traditional compost piles to compost tumblers to electric countertop composters now.
An electric countertop composter can be part of the solution for some people. It helps keep food scraps out of the landfill and can help regenerate soil health.
What Is An Electric Composter?
An electric composter is a small appliance that turns food scraps into a soil amendment. It’s a compost alternative that uses aeration, heat, and grinding to reduce the volume of the food waste by up to 90%.
Electric composters typically use a three-phase cycle of drying, grinding, and cooling. The drying phase uses a high temperature to kill off pathogens and diseases. The grinding phase is the automated equivalent of turning a compost pile where it grinds the materials and reduces them in size. The last cooling phase is simply to ensure it’s cooled off and safe to handle.
You’ll also hear them referred to as electric kitchen composters, countertop composters, electric food recyclers, and more. Most are small enough to fit on your countertop, but some can be trash can-sized.
Do Electric Composters Actually Make Compost?
By definition, the answer is no. They don’t actually compost. They dehydrate food scraps into an organic soil amendment that is sterile of microbial life. It’ll look like fine mulch or leaf litter when it comes out of the appliance rather than the dark dirt you see come from traditional composting methods. However, if used properly, then the soil amendment can be a rich fertilizer, much like compost, to use in your garden space, pots, or planting beds.
Aren’t There Other Electric Kitchen Composters?
I know I’ll get this question if I don’t address it. Yes, there are other electric composters out there. Here are a few other ones I’ve either done research on or been recommended by others:
The Lomi electric kitchen composter is the newest shiny model on the market (at least that’s how I felt with all the ads) when I wrote this. It’s typically more expensive and larger than other countertop composters. However, compared to the Vitamix Foodcycler, it has slightly more bucket space, slightly more energy efficient, and 3 setting modes for different composting levels
Similarly, the BeyondGREEN Kitchen Waste Composter is another electric composter that people recommend (personally haven’t tried). It’s about the same size as the Vitamix Foodcycler, it’s Energy Star Certified, slightly more expensive, and has 3 power mode settings. However, it is set up as a two-chambered system with it composting waste in the upper chamber while the lower chamber cures the compost.
Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 Review
We’ve had it for 6 months prior to writing a preliminary review because we wanted to ensure it truly worked.
The Foodcycler is a fairly compact appliance at 12.6 x 11 x 14.2 inches in size, similar to a bread machine or stand mixer. It has a 2 foot long cord and requires a 120V outlet. So keep that in mind when you’re planning where to store it. Also, ensure you have enough space above it to remove the internal bucket easily to empty it.
The design is simple and sleek coming in only a gray color. The Foodcycler has a removable bucket that has a 22-ounce capacity, which really just means about a quart or 2 of food scraps depending on how it’s packed into the bucket.
The bucket comes with a separate carbon filtered lid that allows you to place the bucket separately on a counter away from the appliance to fill with food scraps. The lid with the filter helps seal off any odors before processing it in the appliance.
How Does The Vitamix Foodcycler Work?
The Foodcycler heats, dries and grinds food scraps like any typical electric composter. It creates a soil amendment (not technically compost) that looks like fine mulch or breadcrumbs. The soil amendment, which the company calls Foodilizer, needs to wait 1-4 weeks to be added directly to soil with plants in it.
Due to the high heat during processing, there are no microbial or bacterial components left in the by-product (Foodilizer) as you’d find in typical compost. Because of this, it’s not ready to directly go into the soil with plants and needs time to “come back to life.”
There are Foodilizer tablets you can purchase to speed up the process of bringing the soil amendment “back to life”, but honestly, we haven’t tried it as it didn’t seem worth the extra money to speed up a process that’s already been significantly sped up. Besides, we only truly use the soil amendment by-product in the spring and the fall during the growing seasons.
The company clearly tries to avoid the word compost and actually calls the appliance a food recycler as it dehydrates and reduces the size of food scraps rather than creates compost. Everyone calls it an electric composter, but in actuality, it doesn’t technically “compost”.
That said, its Foodilizer by-product is still beneficial and a great way to help reduce food waste.
Is The Foodcycler Easy To Setup?
It was fairly simple to set up for us! It requires a little bit of preliminary assembly to put the filters in, but otherwise, it’s mostly ready to go out of the box.
What Can I Put In the Vitamix Composter?
You can put most any food scraps or compostable product into the Vitamix Foodcycler.
It actually increases the variety you can compost beyond a traditional compost bin or pile. Typically at a residential level, you don’t put meat and dairy products into an outdoor compost because it can attract unwanted creatures and rodents. Well, you can put meat, dairy, and more into the electric composter, even chicken bones, supposedly according to the company.
However, the company notes that harder, dense items like seeds, nuts, hard bones, hard pits, candy, and pineapple leaves may not be able to be ground down. Read the full list here. Additionally, the company states you shouldn’t put anything into the bucket larger than your palm, and to cut it up if needed.
It’s good to diversify the scraps going into the collection bucket each cycle, if possible. A good mixture of scraps or paper, rather than a heavy concentration of one gives better results. It’s like traditional composting where a good balance will give you the best nutrients. We always have a few paper scraps sitting on a shelf that we try to shred and add to each cycle to help with the ratio.
After using the Foodcycler for a while, one big tip I have is to shred your flimsy paper products like bamboo paper towels, napkins, compostable plates, etc. Then balance out the paper products to food ratio.
We filled the bucket a few times with over half being bamboo paper towels. All the paper towels jammed up the spinning grinder, and we had to manually pry the paper out to get it to work again. Luckily, the Foodcycler will beep at you and stop if there’s an issue.
We found if you shredded the paper towels into smaller pieces and had a healthy amount of food scraps in there on the bottom that then the grinder didn’t seem to get jammed.
How Often Do You Run The Vitamix Composter?
As a family of three, we run it every 2-3 days typically. It depends on if the toddler eats his food, if we forget to eat leftovers in the fridge or if we have people visiting.
Since we’re limited to our one double-barrel compost tumbler, we utilize the Vitamix Foodcycler for all our food scraps and compostable products. It speeds up the composting process, reduces the space/volume needed by 90%, and means we don’t need to get another tumbler to keep up with our food waste.
So how often it runs will depend a little on your lifestyle, but I’d recommend not going longer than a week as the food scraps might really start to smell or rot in the sealed bucket.
Where Do You Keep And Store An Electric Composter like the Foodcycler?
Another name you’ll hear for an electric composter is a countertop composter. That’s because some people will have it sitting out like any other kitchen appliance on their countertop.
However, it’s not the smallest appliance, and we find countertop space precious. So we actually store our Foodcycler in a pantry closet. We like this solution as it keeps it out of the way, but not too far to be easily accessible. You can have it anywhere really as long as there’s an outlet to plug it into and some ventilation. We crack the door when it’s running to let the hot air escape.
Because we have the actual appliance so close, we don’t typically have the food scrap bucket separate. However, you can take the bucket out and set it on your countertop to make it even more convenient to put food scraps directly into. The bucket is smaller and comes with a lid with a carbon filter on top. That lid with the filter prevents any smell from escaping as you wait to collect enough food scraps to run the electric composter.
Is The Vitamix Composter Loud?
Not really! Sometimes on the grinding cycle, you’ll hear a sound once in a while that I can only describe as a “groan” because it is trying to grind up the material you put in there. But most of the time it’s just a low humming sound while it runs.
That said, we’ve never put soft bones like chicken bones in it, so I’m unsure if that would make a louder sound. Also, instead of keeping the electric composter on our kitchen counter, we have it in a pantry closet, which diminishes most of the sound.
How To Use The By-Product (aka Foodilizer)
As I mentioned, the crumby by-product is called Foodilizer and acts as a soil amendment for plants after it comes back to life. Here are a few ways you can utilize the Foodilizer by-product.
Add It To A Compost Pile Or Tumbler
If you already have a compost pile, or a compost tumbler like we do, then you can add it to your pile. The active compost in the pile will help bring the Foodilizer back to life and make it ready to use in the garden.
We love doing this because we have limited space. Reducing the volume going into our compost tumbler immediately allows us to generate compost and soil amendments for longer without running out of space.
Add It To A Bucket With Soil To Amend Later
According to the company, the Foodilizer can sit for up to a year before spoiling. So you can store it in a sealed container until it’s come back to life and you’re ready to add it to your garden or planting beds.
Add It To An Empty Pot Or Dirt Pile
As the Foodilizer by-product needs time prior to adding to soil with plants, you can always add it to the soil without plants. If you live in an apartment or have limited space, then add it to a mostly emptied pot while it comes back to life. Or add it to a dirt pile that doesn’t have any plants.
Does An Electric Composter Help If I Already Compost?
Based on personal experience, yes! It allows me to do the following even with compost outdoors.
- Allows More Variety – Unlike traditional outdoor composting, I can compost meat and dairy now instead of any of those food scraps ending up in the trash.
- Speeds Up Composting Process – It breaks down food scraps in 4-8 hours which would take weeks (or months) in traditional outdoor composting. This means I have soil amendments garden ready sooner.
- Composts Even In Winter – If you’ve been composting outdoors for a while, then you know winter and cold pretty much stop the composting process. An electric composter allows you to compost indoors throughout the winter and not have to wait for food scraps to thaw and start to decompose. Definitely, a big win for us and means I’ll for sure have a lot of compost ready for the spring garden and planting beds.
Is The Vitamix Countertop Composter Worth The Price?
Depending on your current composting and living situation, this answer may vary. For us, the answer was definitely yes. This was because we were already paying for a compost service and weren’t getting the valuable compost we were contributing to. I’ll share our cost comparison and payback period below.
How Much Does the Vitamix Foodcycler Cost?
In most places, it will typically cost $399.95 in the US and $499.95 in Canada or other countries. However, some retailers offer coupons, and there are often sales on the electric composter that can save you money on your purchase.
Or you can even consider purchasing a secondhand option to save even more (see more in the resource list!).
Compost Pick Up Service Comparison
As I mentioned, we were paying for a monthly curbside compost service. For us, it was totally worth it at the time as we weren’t heavily gardening and had a newborn. It made it easy and was the perfect solution to ensure our food waste didn’t end up in the landfill.
Fast-forward a few years, we up’d our homesteading game and built a terraced vegetable garden in our suburban front yard. We started realizing we were paying for a composting service and then also having to pay for any compost we needed for our garden and planting beds.
Honestly, it was upsetting and costing us money. So we did the quick math below to understand the cost of our service versus purchasing an electric kitchen composter.
Side Note – Curbside compost services are the bomb and a fantastic solution for helping food waste issues. Unfortunately, sometimes there is not a local curbside compost pickup service available for some people. This is why the Foodcycler is a great alternative.
Payback Period – Is The Cost Worth It?
This will be different for everyone depending on your current composting situation. If you’re not using a compost service currently or purchasing bags of compost every year, then it’s more of an investment in the Earth and helping protect the environment.
But here’s our example and why it was a no-brainer for us to switch.
Curbside Compost Service (weekly pickup): $30/month
Vitamix Foodcycler: $399
Payback Period: $399/$30 = 13.3 months
Just over a year, and it’ll already pay for itself! That may sound like a long time, but you’ll be producing food waste for the rest of your life, so one year is nothing.
However, it’s actually only a 10-month payback period for us. We bought the Vitamix Foodcycler on sale for $300, thus cutting down the time even more. So for us, it was a matter of realizing that the payback period would be relatively short, and we get to reap the benefits of having all the by-products to amend our garden soil.
Another Side Note (because why not!) – This was also us assuming we’d use it only every couple of days or so. Well, let me tell you, there are definitely some days where it has run multiple times a day. On weekends when we are doing bulk food prep or whenever we have guests or parties the number of cycles increases.
Filter Costs & Foodilizer Tablets
It’s recommended to replace the carbon filters in the electric composter every 500 cycle hours. Depending on how often you use it, then that could be every 3-4 months. A two-pack of replacement filters is typically $24.95.
If you use the Foodilzer Tablets, a pack of two is also $24.95 typically and lasts about a year based on instructions. When dissolved in water, these provide beneficial bacteria (i.e, a soil probiotic) to promote plant health in soil that has been mixed with recycled food compound from your FoodCycler. It’s totally an optional, and we don’t use them as we mix the Foodilizer with our existing compost tumbler.
So yes, the Foodcycler composter cost can be pretty steep for some people. It’s not a composting solution for everyone and depends on several factors. If you already pay for a composting service, it may pay for itself quickly. If you don’t, it’s more of an investment and a solution for some to help the global food waste issue if you have use for the by-product.
Where To Buy The Electric Composter
Foodcycler is the name of the company as well as the appliance (a wee confusing!). Foodcycler itself doesn’t sell its product directly, but partners with different distributor companies that use their branded names. For North America, Foodcycler partners with Vitamix to sell the Vitamix Foodcycler FC-50 in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. They have a full list of the international sellers of the Foodcycler on their website.
Foodcycler FC-50 VS. Foodcycler FC-30
The Foodcycler FC-50 and the Foodcycler FC-30 are practically the same appliances. However, the FC-50 comes with a carbon-filtered lid for the collection bucket and the FC-30 does not. You can buy the carbon-filtered lid separately for the FC-30 if you want. According to Foodcycler, all the FC-50 accessories work with the FC-30.
You can’t find the FC-30 available in North America except for bulk municipality use directly from Foodcycler. It’s available outside of North America by international sellers.
Buying Resource List
Like most products there’s a variety of places to purchase the Vitamix Foodcycler from, so here’s a quick resource list for you!
Shop Here – buying directly from the company helps reduce any extra unnecessary shipping
Shop Here – quick fast shipping to start your composting journey fast
- Crate & Barrel
- Best Buy
- Home Depot (what!? I know lol)
Sometimes local distributors have the Foodcycler, but not always.
Lots of people buy things, try once or twice and then decide to resell them. It’s a great win for you as it’s usually cheaper (like $100+) and saves it from going to the landfill potentially! Try Ebay or FB Marketplace to find secondhand options.
Related – Eco-friendly Online Shopping Alternatives For Amazon
So Who Should Buy The Vitamix Foodcycler?
Based on our experience, anyone with some access to a garden or planting bed. Here are a few specific special cases as well.
- Suburban Home Gardeners or Homesteaders (like us!) – An electric composter allows one to eliminate practically all food waste including meat and dairy, unlike traditional home composting systems. Then you can utilize it to improve your home garden soil. It’s a great little closed-loop system right at home.
- People with Regular Cold Weather – if you live where it’s cold frequently and traditional composting is a struggle, this can be a really good alternative.
- People in Apartments with Garden Access – You can compost in a tiny space and reduce your food waste with the Foodcycler. It could simply be for your balcony garden, community garden, or give to a friend who has a garden.
Final Thoughts on the Vitamix Foodcycler Electric Composter
So based on our experience, the Vitamix Foodcycler can help a variety of people and offer them some great benefits. It’s not the end-all magical comprehensive solution that is sometimes marketed for electric composters. However, it is a great added piece to the food waste reduction solution and can help those who struggle with traditional outdoor composting.
Like anything, if you’re not going to use it or have a way to use the soil amendment by-product (Foodilizer), it’s probably not worth the investment, and you should seek another option that better fits your situation. For those who can utilize the soil amendment by-product, it’s a great alternative to traditional composting or being able to eliminate nearly all your food waste.
As we’re combining our Vitamix Foodcycler by-product with our composter tumbler, we are hoping next spring to have a ton of beautiful soil amendment and compost ready for our terraced garden, and to help increase our output of homegrown food.
More Sustainable Living Reviews
We’re serial DIYers over here from DIY stacked rain barrels to home composting. Doing things ourselves gives us freedom and the choice to choose products that benefit the environment/improve our sustainable living journey. It also is a way for us to save money.
Check out some of our other Sustainable Living Reviews:
- The Best Safety Razor – An Honest Leaf Razor Review
- Earth Breeze Review – Best Eco-friendly Laundry Detergent Sheets
- The Best 5 Solar Powered Generators For Home
For Makers & DIYers
- Hubby How To – DIY Stacked Rain Barrel System
- Going Solar Series
- The Ultimate Wood Finish? Rubio Monocoat Review & Color Test
Hope this info on electric composters and the Vitamix Foodcycler review helps you decide if it’s right for your situation. Let us know if you have any questions and what you think in the comments below!
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Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.