What Is A Compost Tumbler? (Pros Cons & Different Types)

what is a compost tumbler

If you’re looking for an easy and effective way to compost your kitchen and garden waste, in that case, a compost tumbler is a perfect solution!

These containers are designed to make composting as efficient and straightforward as possible.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss what they are, the different types of tumblers available, and the benefits of each one!

What Is A Compost Tumbler?

A compost tumbler is a container on a stand used to compost organic kitchen and garden waste. The containers are closed to prevent pest access but allow aeration through vents. The composter is periodically rotated to mix the waste material for even and complete composting and better aeration.

A compost tumbler is typically a drum or similar container mounted on a stand to allow the container to be easily rotated. 

There are several types and designs of compost tumblers, but they all operate on the same principle.

The name itself refers to how organic materials get tossed and tumbled when the drum is turned. Turning compost is a necessary step in aerobic composting.

​Related: How to Start a Compost Tumbler

How Does A Compost Tumbler Work?

how compost tumblers work

The compost tumbler works by allowing air to circulate through the container. This creates aerobic composting, which is necessary for breaking down organic materials. (Aerobic composting means “with oxygen” instead of anaerobic “without oxygen. Aerobic composting is the method preferred by most gardeners).

The material inside the composter is periodically rotated to mix it and ensure even composting. Turning the compost also helps to aerate it, which is necessary for the aerobic bacteria to thrive.

There are several benefits to using a compost tumbler:

  • Ease of use: Compost tumblers are designed to be easy to use, so you don’t have to worry about the chore of turning or aerating a traditional compost pile.
  • Pest control: Keeping your compost in a sealed container will help to keep pests out.
  • Less odor: Compost tumblers also help reduce odors since the material is sealed inside.
  • Efficient composting: The rotating action of the tumbler helps to mix and aerate the compost, making the process more efficient. The closed container also helps keep in some heat, which improves the process.

Types Of Compost Tumblers

compost tumblers

There are many varieties of compost tumblers, from size and shape to turning mechanisms and construction material. The range of tumblers available can make it challenging to decide which version is best for your garden.

A quick examination of the different compost tumbler types may help you decide on the most suitable version for your needs.

Single Or Dual Barrel Tumbler?

Some compost tumblers have a single composting chamber, while others are divided into two separate compartments. Which version would be the better option?

In my experience, dual chambers are preferable to single chamber versions (like this popular model on Amazon). This is because once one chamber is full, you have a second chamber to deposit your kitchen and garden waste while you wait for the compost in the original chamber to mature.

Plastic Vs. Metal Tumblers

A compost tumbler made from metal should be made from stainless steel to prevent the tumbler from disintegrating from rust. 

The moist, damp environment in the tumbler accelerates the formation of rust on metal. Metal compost tumblers require better insulation to prevent the conduction of heat away from the tumbler in cold conditions. Metal compost tumblers are generally more expensive than plastic tumblers. But they are very robust (see the Jora model previously mentioned)

Plastic tumblers are lighter, cheaper, and (generally) provide better insulation for the contents during cold conditions. In addition, plastic degrades faster when exposed to sunlight, giving the composter an overall shorter lifespan than a metal version.  

Here’s an example of one of the highest-rated affordable tumblers on the market (Amazon).

Portable compost tumbler

The benefit of this type of tumbler is that they can be easily transported thanks to the integrated wheels. 

When a tumbler drum is full, it can be pretty heavy. So easy transportation is an added bonus. This system works by allowing gardeners to take the compost container directly to where it needs to be used!

The Mantis back porch composter is an excellent example of a portable model.

Insulated compost tumblers

The major advantage of insulated compost tumblers is keeping the compost warm.

But why is this important?

The composting process creates heat as the microorganisms break down the organic waste. Retaining this heat inside the tumbler improves the bacterial action, leading to microbe growth and more heat. This, in turn, speeds up composting and results in a more efficient process.

This can also be helpful if you live in a cold climate and want to use your composter year-round. (The Matis composter is a durable insulated compost tumbler for all seasons)

The bottom line is that an insulated tumbler will help the composting process along, especially during colder months.

DIY Vs. Commercial Tumblers

Compost tumblers are generally more expensive than compost bins and maintaining a compost pile. However, building your own DIY compost tumbler is an option to reduce the price.

Building your own compost tumbler will produce a similar quality tumbler for little to no cost if you have DIY skills and materials. However, a commercial compost tumbler would be better if you are not handy with DIY projects or don’t have the materials on hand.

Large Vs. Small Compost Tumblers

Since compost tumblers come in a wide range of sizes, should you opt for a larger tumbler or a smaller version?

Smaller tumblers fill up faster than larger ones. You may find that you fill both compartments of a small compost tumbler very quickly and then have no place to put your organic kitchen and garden waste. A larger tumbler would be better if you generate large amounts of kitchen waste and garden waste.

The size of the tumbler is also vital for fast decomposition. If the tumbler is too small, then decay will be slow. A larger mass of organic material improves the composting process. It allows the core of the material to heat up properly.

If you have limited garden space, a smaller tumbler would be more appropriate to take up less space in your garden.


A compost tumbler is a great way to make your own compost. You can buy them or build your own. 

There are many different types of composters on the market, but the best one for you depends on how much space you have and how often you want to use it. 

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