How to Make Super Strong Lacto

Two lacto flogs in a row! That’s a record! If you missed it, last week I shared a delightful story about The World’s Most Horrible Smell and how I valiantly defeated it using plain old lacto spray.

But what if plain old lacto spray isn’t enough? What if you want to make a super digestive aid? What if you don’t have enough lacto and need to make some more? Today’s article covers this topic with a very simple How To on propogating your lacto culture.

The actual microbe propagation is only half the story. As lacto bacteria consume sugars, they convert them to organic acids and other compounds. These compounds are anti-fungal and anti-non-lacto-microbial in general; it’s the lacto species way of ensuring their dominance. Which is fine with us, since we like those compounds and usually need them to control some bad bacteria or mold.

If you have a 500ml (half quart) bottle filled with the diluted lacto culture, and you want to turn it into a 4 L (1 gallon) bottle of the same concentration of lacto microbes, how do you do it? You need the microbes to multiply. Doing this you can grow insane numbers of lacto in your culture, it’s awesome.

You can easily multiply your lacto microbes, make a stronger culture or larger quantity culture, by adding a bit of the simple food source and keeping the system anaerobic. The simple food source is sugar: white sugar, brown sugar, molasses (the best), maple syrup, jaggery, honey(not ideal), or one of the other varieties of this simple carbohydrate source.

The recipe for doing this varies and is not set in stone so don’t worry about it too much. I usually just add a bit of lacto and a bit of sugar to a jug of water, and seal it up. But if you really want something to follow, here is a simple recipe:

PER 500ml (half quart) OF WATER:
– 4 tbsp sugar source (molasses is best)
– 2 tbsp diluted lacto (“diluted” means the lacto you get after you mix 1:20 with water)

Mix all in sealed jug and leave in shady place, ideally at least 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit), warmer the better though. Leave for a few days or until you feel pressure buildup or see consistent bubbling in airlock.

Note this is just an example of how to do it. You can vary the amount of ingredients depending on need. For example you can increase the sugar and temperature, and get much higher microbe populations and their byproducts that way, up to a point; if you add too much sugar, it will stop microbial growth.

Note on this technique: you are multiplying certain species in your lacto culture. Remember when you started with the original lacto serum recipe, you captured wild microbes in your rice wash – a wide variety of microbes. Some went dormant due to lacto taking over when you added the milk. The populations of those dormant ones will continue to get diluted as you dilute the original culture. The lacto species, which love anaerobic, sugar-rich conditions, will thrive and multiply.

So what would you use this technique for? Well you can brew an insanely strong lacto culture this way, it’s just awesome. You can literally feel the pressure buildup if you’re doing it in a sealed bottle, or see the bubbling start going crazy in an airlock. It’s awesome – you know that culture is full of microbes and healthy disease-fighting compounds. So now what to use the extra strong culture for…

You can apply this super strength culture where you think you might need extra strength lacto to overcome the odds. Anywhere where a significant number of the wrong microbes have taken over. Like a compost pile that has gone anaerobic and smells really foul. You know its just full of bad microbes and you need to conquer them. Or maybe worm bin leachate that has sat and now stinks. Or bokashi leachate with the same problem. Bokashi leachate should smell nice and earthy, or a bit sweet-n-sour, or a bit vinegary, but not putrid. In all these examples, the thing you’re treating is really rich in microbes already, and you need to try and fix them. You can also use this super strength lacto with other recipes, like the fish fertilizer recipe, to jump start it a bit. You are just starting the recipe with higher numbers of lacto, so it should get going faster. You might also use this with organic fertilizer, to help pre-digest it before applying to plants. Say you are foliar feeding your roses a 10-10-10 organic fertilizer each evening. Well in this case you would add your fertilizer to the tanks 12-36hrs early. You would also add some super lacto culture. The lacto gets to work on the fertilizer in the sealed tank before you apply it. You can use less fertilizer this way, for the same effect.

Also, it’s just cool to see the microbes multiply. :)

Read again next week where I apply this technique to a batch of bokashi leachate that hasn’t been kept anaerobic, and now smells absolutely horrible! Will it work on the microbe-rich leachate? Find out next week!

  • Jeff

    Patrick, good stuff here. I have been curious about this myself, and have been working it around in my brain. Essentially, the culture is getting activated by simple sugar. I am curious if a different group of bacteria will begin to dominate, specifically acetobacter rater then lactic acid varieties. In my rudimentary tests it seems to become more vinegar and less like lactic acid. Seems like if you added fresh milk it would move toward the lactic acid profile, that is using lactose rather then sucrose. What are your thoughts on this? I wonder too what the positive benefits to health, cleanup and agro applications the different profiles would give. Thank you for your work and efforts on this blog.

    • Patrick

      Hey Jeff,

      Great to hear from you again..yeah you bring up some good points, although I think acetobacter more commonly process the alcohol into acetic acid under aerobic conditions – like when wine goes bad after opening. Not sure how successful they are in anaerobic conditions. But you are right I think you end up with more acetic than lactic acid, so maybe it’s a different group than the lactic acid bacteria that begin to dominate. I know that it still works well in all the lacto applications.. You know pretty soon I’m going to start sending samples to labs to get some more scientific results. I like the “we make it because it works” approach but I’m still curious about which strains are there, in what concentrations, etc.

      Hope to see you on the boards soon. If you haven’t signed up for TUF Forum experts-only section, please do, though I think I saw your name in email about it already..


      • Erich

        I bought some EM-1 from Teraganix and they actually suggest using 1 part EM-1 and 1 part molasses mixed with water to increase the amount of EM-1. They warn this should only be done once because the ratio of organisms will change with each dilution.

        I was hoping I could continue to create new EM-1 but perhaps you are making a similar warning.

        Is the only way to know what organisms exist to send to a lab? Is it too complicated to get a microscope and check from home?

        • Jeff

          Erich, thanks for sharing what the Teraganix folks say. Relates very much to this thread. I too would like to extend permanently a “family” of beneficial microbes. I suspect it is not as easy as just adding a food source, but it might be possible. Each of the microbes could be isolated out of the mother culture separately if they are there and alive in the EM-1 solution. There are questions though. Like if you grow and isolate separately, how do you reintroduce and in what proportions (and timing) so that the solution functions as a synergistic whole? Also, is it possible to create a food source that feeds all the microbes at one time and just keep it going? I have come to believe that it would be more then a sugar. Keep in mind that there are principally 3 types of organisms here. Lactic acid bacteria, phototropic bacteria, and yeasts. My feeling is that feeding the solution sugar alone will “activate” the yeast, causing a low level of alcohol and then finally acetic acid. This is what I witness with the ferment known as kombucha. Kombucha is very active and has at least some beneficial properties. It is also easy to keep alive through multiple generations. If you feed the EM-1 milk, I suspect that you would end up with a serum very high in LAB. If you feed the EM-1 fish emulsion and adjust for other parameters you might end up with a solution high in photo-tropic bacteria.

          I have other questions, like is it possible to isolated the 3 kinds of beneficial organisms from home? It seems that yeasts and LAB are all over the place, I don’t know about the photo-tropic guys. My feeling is that they too may be ambient in our homes but I don’t know how to isolate. As far as using a microscope, that is a good question. Not sure what the procedure would be or if you would first have to isolate out everything that is there. I am way undereducated here. There are people who know the answers to these questions but they don’t seem to be talking. One of us will eventually crack the code though. My problem is that I don’t know the language of microbiology. If we could phrase it right and ask google perhaps the answer would be there. Those of us who dabble in this stuff know that there is much value in it, for waste remediation, human, animal and plant health. So the sooner we answer the questions the better, as far as I’m concerned.

          • Erich

            Hi Jeff – Here is the information from Teraganix.

            This was my first year to grow tomatoes, and about half way through the season I finally bought the EM-1 because there was so much spotting and discoloration on the plants. I am not even sure what EM-1 is supposed to do, the best I could figure out, the good bacteria was to physically crowd out the bad bacteria.

            Two other techniques which are supposed to help are grafting and mulching. Grafting a tasty tomato plant onto the root of a more durable type of tomato sounds reasonable, and is supposed to be very popular outside the US in areas where tomatoes otherwise would not grow.

            However, I have also heard the bacteria which causes tomato disease can bounce off the soil during rain, reaching the top of the grafted plant, spreading disease that way. Mulch supposedly can prevent this.

            This is just my thought process. My goal is to grow food and doing without chemicals does take effort. It would be nice to know what actually works rather than just trying different things.

            In this case, I think the best step would be to go back and try to figure out how the disease is spread. I also think it would be good for home gardeners to learn more about how to set up proper experiments.

          • Patrick

            Hey Erich and Jim,

            Great discussion, I know I jumped in a few times sorry about that but this is a cool discussion. I’m setting up the forums now so we can chat there. That’s a good point Erich about teaching people the scientific method and the basics of experiment design. I’ll have to start a topic for that in the forums.

            Cheers guys,

          • Patrick

            Yeah Jeff exactly, what a great comment. I concur completely. I’m also a dabbler, I have a science background but not microbiology, so I’m grasping also. I think the terraganix guys do that to make EM-1. They use different nutrient broths separately to propogate all the species they want, then stabilize each one alone (or all at once?) then combine when they are stable. When you add sugar you are increasing populations of some but not others, that’s why I made that comment before, and why they say the same – dilutes out some species.

            I think we could take BIM, and add it to different nutrient broths at different conditions, and propogate the ‘parts’ of it indefinitely, separately. But we’d need some labwork for that. I actually have a guy from India that wants to do this so we’ll see what happens there.

            The Forums are my first attempt to get this conversation going, get some expert feedback including pictures, etc. I hope it takes off and we can get some nerds on there :)..

            For scoping, I have a light microscope, a nice one, and I can recognize different things like yeasts, fungi, kinds of bacteria like spheres(cocci) rods(bacilli) and spirals(spirochetes), ciliates, flagellates, etc but these are all VERY broad categories. It’s enough for playing at home but not definitive.

            It’s true, we know the value of the stuff the but it would be nice to have more study opened up. I’m working on that, I hope we can all learn a lot in the next little while.

            Thanks Jeff,

  • Harley

    It is a common homework assignment in microbiology class to take home several different growing media and place in them in several different locations in the home. The media in the Petri dishes starts out sterile, but once you open them in your house, you get microbes on them (sometimes 10 minutes of exposure to air is enough!). The second part of the task, once there are bacteria growing in the medium, is to isolate each one on a new medium. Once you have a single type of bacteria growing, identify them using a microscope. It can take a couple of weeks, but is a fun task, if sometimes gross, when one sees black/pink/brown/white slimy/fuzzy spots growing on the media.
    So it is possible to figure out which microbes are in your BIM/Lacto, but it wouldn’t be easy to know the percentages of each. Along the lines of “we make it because it works,” acetic acid and lactic acid DO have very distinctive odors.

    Here is a link to making agar plates to capture bacteria. I haven’t tried these specific recipes, but they use mostly household materials and the instructions are clearly written.

    btw: this isn’t an advertisement for genetic study or the University of Utah. I just think the information at the site is useful.

    • Patrick

      Hey Harley, awesome comment, thank you for the feedback!!

      I hope you will take part in the forums coming up. If you signed up for the FLog before then you would have received updates about the forums opening up.

      Thanks for the link, that’s great.


    • Jeff

      Harley, thanks for the link on making agar plates and also your observations. After hearing you I really wish I had had the opportunity to do that kind of science and lab work. Just curious, once the microbes grow out on the plates what is generally the process of identification? Is a microscope enough for positive ID like Patrick has or do you need other gear. I imagine observation and experience gets you most of the way. We need people like you to teach us lab work!

  • Jeff

    Wow, just found this page that shows how lacto varieties can help eradicate antibiotic resistant invections.

    Is it wrong to post a link here?

    • Patrick

      Wow, that is awesome! Thanks for sharing!! Relevant links are much appreciated, so thanks! :)

  • Yes, honey isn’t ideal because the bees produce antibiotics to protect their offspring in the hives and these interfere with the lacto bacilli. Other than that, microbiology is a fascinating subject: while a deer hunter has to go to the tundra or forests and the lion hunter to Africa, a trained microbiologist can grow about 95% of all fungi or bacteria by collecting a cubic inch of soil from almost anywhere, then use nutrients and a temperature regime that is optimal for a very particular strain and in the end, after “spreading out” the culture half a dozen times in a certain way, the remainder will be exactly that species.

    • Patrick

      Thanks for sharing Dermot! it is a fascinating subject indeed!


  • Henry


    Temps. here are still in the ’80’s how long should you ferment? Would the dosage be the same as regular LB?


    • Patrick

      Hey Henry,

      I’d ferment a few days to get high populations, maybe 5-7 to get high populations. I’m not sure about dilution rates actually, maybe dilute a bit more than the regular serum, like half as strong.

      You can ferment much longer, like indefinitely, but I think the populations drop a bit over time until it reaches a stable point (unless you arrest it with 1:1 sugar).


  • jeff

    i made the super strong lacto, should i arrest it with sugar? or cool it off?

    • Patrick

      You can do either of those actually Jeff. Though I just leave mine out, which after awhile harms the populations but is ok in the short term.

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