Airlift Compost Tea Brewer Build Instructions DIY

October 16, 2014 11 Comments

This Blog Post Isn't finished and I will be updating with more details soon. Please Ask Questions If I Forgot Anything. 

I posted this short Video Clip on Instagram and a few people emailed asking for plans on how to build one. 

All Credit for the Airlift and Design to Tim Wilson at aka MicrobeMan

Visit for more accurate details on his recipes and designs. 

NOTICE: Build your own stand. I'll post measurements but get creative! You can make one all out of PVC or wood or anything.... Send me your photo's.... I really want to see your brewer in action and show all the other growers the many ways to do this. 

My Stand is made from old 2x4's that were on my property laying around and the red plastic piece that holds the water bucket is the bottom of an old chicken waterer that I cut a whole into. You could easily make something that would support the water bottle better using 2x4's PVC etc. 


The rest of the PVC you need 1-1/2" Inside Diameter PVC Get 1 8 Foot piece so you have extra just in case. 

Cut with a Mitre Box to make sure every cut is perfectly straight so you don't have leaks.. then file the ends to get the rough edges off. This will make sure you don't have leaks. MITRE BOX

1-1/2" PVC Measurements To Cut:

  1. 3"
  2. 3.5"
  3. 7"
  4. 2.5"
  5. 23.5"
  6. 5"
  7. 3.5"

Match The Location On The Photo Below :

NOTE: These sizes are based off of my stand and you should construct your own mock up to make sure everything works properly. 

Tools that help to have around:

2 Strap Wrenches

I use the Pipe Wrench to tighten the Threaded Attachment where the airline goes in... That and a strap wrench for torque. Tight means no leaks!

I use the Socket to tighten the Metal straps on the Rubber Reducer that connects the Water Bottle to the PVC. 5/16" or 8mm Socket.

Tools for building Compost Tea Brewer

You might notice a small leak in a few spots the first time you put it together. Typically once you towel dry these areas and add molasses and vermicompost it will stop leaking. Once you clean it fresh it might leak just barely but really not bad. Once I smoothed off the edges of all my cuts and also used a Mitre Box to make them so everything was straight I was able to run the machine with just water without any leaks at all.

In the video I'll show you some tricks to putting it together that help with leaks. 


11 Responses


February 15, 2016

lookie here


September 09, 2015

the pump you recommend as well as the pump i bought from amazon all have 1/4" barbed outlet fixtures. i cannot figure out how to get from that 1/4" outlet up to the 1/2" inlet at the bottom of the airlift. nobody i can find sells push on reducers and the pump manufacturers don’t have 1/2" replacement outlets for the pumps. i’m stuck with a fully constructed brewer and no air pump connection. do you have any suggestions?


April 21, 2015

hey jeremy, did you ever figure out what size tubing works well with the 35 watt pump ? i have a bucket airlift brewer but wanna switch to the water bottle design and upgrade my pump to the 35 watt ? wanna figure out tubing size before i order, thanks buddy and congrats on the growth of your buisness. the new forklift is dope hahahaha

ernest  jones
ernest jones

February 24, 2015

I was wondering if i could get a parts list for the mini microbulator in the 5 gallon bucket.
The video on Tim’s site has the pics but not a specific parts list .. and home depot was none too helpful.
I already have the same pump and braided 1/2 inch hose , i just need the diameters and pvc parts .



February 07, 2015

We have had great luck by omitting the bushing, replacing the 1 1/2 × 1 1/4 × 1 1/2 Tee with a 1 1/2 × 1 1/2 × 1 1/2 Tee then flipping the reducer bushing upside down so the 1 1/4 end is water jug side, and the bushing slips over the 1 1/2 Tee. Jeremy and Tim, thank you so much for your continual contributions. Fantastic!!!

Jeremy Silva
Jeremy Silva

November 11, 2014


I’m guessing you used the wrong PVC T to connect into the rubber.

The piece needed is a reducer T: PVC Reducing Tee – 1-1/2″ × 1-1/2″ × 1-1/4" (part# pvc 02400 5900) ($1.50)

So the Top Part Of the T that the Rubber bushing slips over is only 1-1/4" and not 1-1/2" like the other Elbow used where the airlift goes up.

I hope that makes sense! Otherwise Call me and I’ll walk you through it.

Evan cox
Evan cox

November 10, 2014

Did you ever make the video making it? All was good until I couldn’t get the water jug to fit tight in the rubber coupling? Or does it ju st sit in the bushing with gravity?

Evan cox
Evan cox

November 10, 2014

Did you ever make the video making it? All was good until I couldn’t get the water jug to fit tight in the rubber coupling?

Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson

October 18, 2014

Info From Tim Wilson:

If you look on my webpage here; you will find a link to Steven Storch’s design which he put in the public domain. I have no trouble giving him credit for the vortex.

Here is what I said in regard to vortexes; “The Vortex Method:
There are many who claim that running water in a vortex pattern comprised of multiple mini vortices changes the properties of water beneficially. I remain dubious but open-minded.”

Steven’s design which I linked is based upon the use of 4 airlifts with airlines dropped in from the top. His philosophy is based upon the creation of a vortex; mine is not and my patent is not based on the vortex. It is based upon the use of airlift and method of air input. I also hold the patent as to method, which includes the multiplication of specific microorganisms.


On my webpage I go on to submit a much simpler design for those wishing to create a cone bottom (or vortex if they wish) bioreactor.

I do not buy into the vortex mumbo jumbo. I find it to be mythical conjecture. If there is any scientific background submitted to support this, I may change my mind in future. Now, I contend that it is the airlift itself which creates a high dissolved oxygen in the water and we have noticed no change in measurement of dissolved oxygen with a vortex created or not, with the return nozzle pointed straight down.

The cone bottom tank provides a definite advantage for a homogeneous mix, however there is no discernible difference in the numbers and diversity of the three microbial groups sought. (verified via microscope).

Steven is completely correct that the airlift has been in use for ages. It is used in laboratory bioreactors for microbial multiplication. For example Premier Tech has a design using an airlift which multiplies endomycorrhizal fungi Rhizophagus irregularis (syn: Glomus irregulare)

It was from laboratory bioreactors that I garnered my inspiration to create the original microbulator.

There is evidence that airlifts were used by the Romans centuries ago and possibly the Egyptians. I have written of this many times on the Internet

For ordinary farmers and growers the price of a cone bottom tank is out of reach, never mind the high priced brewers like the vortex units and the fancy overpriced ingredients which have no supportive data to substantiate their use beyond well made compost/vermicompost and affordable products like Organic Gem blend of vegetable and fish hydrolysate.

There are manufacturers and distributors of vortex brewers doing a great disservice to the scientific practice of using compost tea for its microbial population by hyping, that one cannot discern diversity with a microscope and that it is therefore good practice for hydro shops to run these machines perpetually and sell the liquid any time to customers.

They are completely missing the facts in this apparent conjecture as follows;

The diversity we are looking for in ‘simple’ ACT (microbial extrapolations is my preferred term) are bacteria/archaea, naked amoebae, flagellates, ciliates (in small numbers), fungal hyphae and sometimes rotifers and nematodes.

One can easily see if there is a diversity of the above listed organisms but on top of that one can further see if there are several genera of amoebae, flagellates, ciliates, fungal hyphae and rotifers. I have seen at least 10 different families of flagellates in one sample and differing genera of all listed. It is true that one cannot identify bacteria and archaea species by sight but one can see if there is some diversity taxonomically. The important diversity is between the 3 basic groups; bacteria/archaea, protozoa and fungal hyphae. Ideally one wishes to see 10,000+ bacteria/archaea in a 200X field of view and at least 2 to 3 flagellates and/or naked amoebae on average when examining a slide. Additionally, if included in the compost it is good to see a fungal hyphae complex at least once in each run across the slip. (alternatively strands here and there) One does not want to see an abundance of ciliates as this is an indicator that there could be an imbalance of anaerobic bacteria.

If one runs a perpetual ‘brew’ as advocated by the vortex brewer distributors, one invariably ends up with a ‘brew’ which cycles from a point of diversity to a point of dominance by an organism (usually ciliates). As fresh foodstock and compost are added the population goes through a flux where the cycle begins to once again become diverse. This normally takes 24 to 36 hours. If the shop keeper running the perpetual brew does not monitor it microscopically and with an oxygen meter, some customers will be getting much better ‘tea’ than others.

It is much better to begin a fresh batch every 36 to 48 hours and make scheduling with customers so they get the highest quality and freshest ‘tea’ possible.

Jeremy Silva
Jeremy Silva

October 17, 2014

Steven Storch! I appreciate you taking the time to visit

I appreciate the post and have removed the word Vortex from the blog title and I honestly wasn’t copying your product I was copying Tim Wilson’s Patented 12 Gallon Bio Reactor into a Smaller Size.

Links Below for reference so you can see that I was clearly copying Tim’s single airlift device and not a Plurality of Conduits like your design.

Either way, I really appreciate your work in the field and would never want to offend you. Everything at BuildASoil is transparent and all the recipes are 100% out in the open, including how to build the tools I personally use in my day to day.


October 16, 2014

was just looking at my 15 yyear old bone yard of vortex brewers®. i built the first prototype in 1999. the airlift has been in use for decades for aquariumm undergravel filters. i took the idea and created the vortex brewer® nice try. it is just a copy, friend

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