Why is the FoodCycler awesome?
Well, it can take just about anything, anywhere at any time - and turn it into a gorgeous nutrient-dense fertilizer which can be stored indefinitely, contains a nitrogen-rich NPK ratio and has proven benefits for your garden soil (and plants).
There are, however, certain limitations to what the FoodCycler can and cannot handle. This article and infographic will walk you through the Do's & Don'ts of FoodCycling.
A healthy balance
A healthy balance needs to be struck when FoodCycling - just as in any other part of your life! The FoodCycler can process just about anything: but the best results will come from a cycle that is balanced with a high ratio of veggie and fruit scrap, egg shells or coffee grinds.
These materials in particular are helpful to the cycle, as they absorb moisture and provide some "grit" to the food materials which will keep your cycle from caking onto the sides of the bucket.
That's why - even though the FoodCycler is intended for food items first and foremost - we mention small amounts of paper towel. Easily decomposable paper products will not dehydrate further in the FoodCycler, but they will absorb excess moisture.
So, if you have an excess of moisture or oily foods, and not enough absorbent materials to balance them, you can try cutting up a single strip of paper towel into small pieces.
Your best bet though, diet-depending, is to regularly incorporate coffee grinds, citrus peels and/or egg shells to keep your cycles consistently smooth.
Why can't I put tons of starches or sugary fruits in one cycle?
The FoodCycler is one hard worker! That being said, some things will put undue stress on the gears, which may shorten the life of your bucket.
Cycles with a lot of bread, pasta, rice and/or cake (for example) may weigh heavily on the bucket gears and cause a jam. Combine these items with moisture-rich/sugar-rich materials, and you may have a very tough-to-remove jam on your hands!
Why can't I put lots of nut butters or spreads/ sauces in the cycle?
Because nut butters and sauces typically have a high oil content, too much of these items may get uncomfortably close to the "no oils" rule. However, a small amount of oily stuff isn't terrible - it just needs to be none-too-prevalent, with enough gritty materials (like egg shells, coffee grinds or dry veggie peels/citrus rinds) to make up for it.
Can I put whole foods into the cycle?
Good rule of thumb is: if the entire thing can't fit into your mouth, it might not do so well in the FoodCycler. Whole foods are just too dense and moisture-rich to break down within the cycle period. If you have a whole food item to process (like a soft apple, or a rotten onion), we strongly recommend that you cut it up prior to cycling.
What about paper towels? Coffee filters? Coffee pods?!
The FoodCycler is intended, first and foremost, for organic matter. However, some non-organic matter can be put into the FoodCycler in small amounts. Paper towels, when cut up, can go into the FoodCycler. This is particularly true when your cycle is overly wet from food. The paper towels can help absorb some of that extra moisture while also becoming damp itself, which will help it be broken down during the cycle.
Coffee filters and teabags can definitely go into the FoodCycler. Because those items are usually wet, they will break down during the cycle in no time! Even if they are not wet, they are lightweight, absorbent and will likely come into contact with other moist organic matter, which will help them break down in the cycle.
Compostable coffee pods (such as the well-known Keurig pods) are a different matter. Because the tops of the pods are quite durable to be able to give the pod structure in the machine, those rings (even though technically biodegradable) will not break down fully in the FoodCycler. The bottoms of the pods (the mesh bit, which holds the coffee) will break down in the FoodCycler if you separate it from the harder top.
There are some exceptions to this rule: Club Coffee compostable coffee pods, which are used by a variety of brand name coffee, is FoodCycler friendly. We have personally tested their pods and have discovered that they can be processed by the machine.
What's the deal with pineapple leaves? Corn husks & cobs?
Plain and simple, pineapple leaves may just be the strongest items known to appliance-kind. Even our partners, Vitamix, have had issues attempting to blend them! It's best just to avoid them completely lest you accidentally break your bucket's grinding blades.
Large, dense items such as corn husks, cobs and other thicker peels may be too tough in whole form. When in doubt, it never hurts to cut up questionable items prior to cycling.
Items such as celery, parsley, cilantro and asparagus, while seemingly innocuous, are actually composed of thread-like fibres which, when processed whole by the FoodCycler, can twist around the grinding blades like strands of rope. At best, this will cause a jam, which will be a frustrating exercise in knot-wrangling. At worst, it can actually break your blades! These items should always be cut up into inch-long, harmless pieces prior to cycling.
A final rule-of-thumb guideline
As with anything in life, variety is the spice you want!
Adding too much of one type of food waste may either affect your grinding bucket's ability to pulverize and aerate your food waste, or produce a less-than-amazing by-product to incorporate into your garden. Of course, you can't really go wrong by processing only egg shells, coffee grinds or even veggie and fruit peelings - but the beauty of the FoodCycler is its almost alchemical ability to transform a lil' bit of everything into a gorgeous, balanced fertilizer (or foodilizer!).