Some sustainable living changes — like swapping out plastic bags for reusable food storage — are relatively easy. Others — like diverting food waste from landfills — can feel pretty overwhelming. Unless your city offers municipal composting services, up until a few years ago, the only options were to pay for a private service or start your own backyard compost pile or vermicomposting bin. Today, though, countertop machines offer another, pretty turnkey, option that’s particularly appealing to those of us who don’t have space to go all in on composting.
While they’re not a 1-to-1 replacement for traditional composting (they use heat and mechanical grinders to rapidly break down food waste into a soil-like product, but not a soil itself), machines like the Lomi Composter from Pela and the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 offer plenty of similar benefits. To determine just how many benefits — and how the two compare to each other — we put both products to the test.
The Lomi Composter is a sleek countertop device ideal for people who want to keep food and bioplastic waste out of landfills. The three modes offer convenient flexibility in terms of the waste that goes in, the time spent on each cycle and the end product created, whether your goal is to fertilize your garden or contribute to a green bin.
The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 is ideal for people who want to dispose of food waste responsibly and efficiently — creating fertilizer in the process — while keeping costs relatively low.
Lomi vs. Vitamix at a glance
3 to 24 hours (depending on mode)
3 to 8 hours
16" W x 13" D x 12" H (listed measurements); 14" W x 12" D x 12" H (measured)
12.6" W x 11" D x 14.2" H (listed measurements); 11" W x 12.25" D x 14.25" H (measured)
Both machines are easy to use
Both the Lomi Composter and the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 are incredibly easy to set up and use. The included instructions were clear, and it only took me about 30 minutes to set up each machine, and it wasn’t much longer before I was actually running a cycle. The most time-consuming aspect is reading the instructions and making sure you’re only including approved waste products in the machine (an easier task with the Vitamix, as there’s only one mode; with the Lomi, each mode has slightly different allowances).
Both the Lomi and the Vitamix have a line on the inside of the collection bucket that clearly indicates the maximum level you can fill it to for a cycle. If you want to ensure you’re getting the best output possible, it’s worth taking care to create a balanced mix of greens and browns (just like you would with an outdoor compost pile). From there, it’s literally a press (or a few presses) of a button. The Lomi machine defaults to “Lomi Approved” mode, which is the mode that allows for approved bioplastics and packaging, but if you want to change to “Eco-express” or “Grow” mode, you simply press and hold the main button for three seconds once or twice, depending on the mode you choose. On the Vitamix, there’s just one button you press to start the cycle. I did run into a small issue the second time I used it: When I pressed the button, the machine beeped once and did nothing. When I pressed again, it beeped a few times and did nothing. I read the troubleshooting section of the manual and tried unplugging the machine and plugging it back in, and it worked that time; I found the troubleshooting section of the manual to be very clear and easy to follow.
Cleaning is pretty much the same across the Lomi and the Vitamix as well. Both buckets are dishwasher-safe. Clearing excess dirt or large particles before putting them in the dishwasher is easy, though some can get stuck underneath the part where the blade mechanism meets the inside of the bucket (a very similar design in both buckets). In that case, I’ve had the best success using a small cheese knife to push it out. As for the outside of the machines, they don’t need to be cleaned very regularly (Lomi recommends cleaning the exterior once a month, or “as frequently as you would clean any other kitchen appliance”), and you can do so by wiping them down with a damp cloth and drying them with a fresh one. Vitamix also recommends periodically cleaning the inside of the machine (with the bucket removed), which you can do using a damp-but-not-dripping dishcloth, making sure the unit fully dries before running another cycle.
Smells and sounds are minimal
Once running, neither machine is particularly disruptive. I tested both for a cycle each on my kitchen counter and in my hallway storage closet (making sure there were at least 6 inches on all sides to allow for proper venting). The Vitamix is slightly quieter than the Lomi, with a low buzz or hum throughout the cycle that was barely noticeable when I was in the same room as the machine, and not at all audible when I was in the next room over. The Lomi makes a similar noise, albeit a bit louder. I didn’t mind it when I was in the same room, but if you’re particularly sensitive to ancillary sounds, you could tire of the buzzing (especially considering it will last for anywhere from three to 24 hours, depending on the mode). When I had the Lomi running in the closet, though, I couldn’t hear it from the other room.
As for odors, both machines have carbon filters present to absorb any offensive smells, and they seem to do the job well. When close to either machine, I would occasionally notice a smell, but it was more of a very subtle earthy smell; it wasn’t unpleasant and didn’t evoke gross, rotten food at all. By and large, though, I didn’t smell anything coming from either the Lomi or the Vitamix. That said, if you want to keep the odors at bay, you’ll have to be diligent about replacing the carbon filters when the “change filter” light illuminates (both machines have one). The Vitamix also comes with a collection lid with a removable carbon filter, so you can easily collect waste in the bucket separately from the machine without worrying too much about smells. If you want to use the Lomi bucket for collection, you’ll have to keep it in the machine, as it doesn’t come with a separate lid (the alternative would be to purchase a dedicated bin with a filter).
Neither machine produces actual finished compost
Here’s where things get confusing. Unlike backyard compost piles, worm bins or municipal composting services, these machines don’t actually create compost. “A simple way to think of these countertop machines is that they’re like a food dehydrator and a coffee grinder put together,” says Josh Whiton, founder of makesoil.org. “The end result is more akin to dehydrated, powdered food scraps than actual compost or soil. It hasn’t been fully processed by microbes and had the time needed to become humus (the stable component of soil that provides a structured growing medium for plants).” Because of that, you can’t simply take the output from your Lomi or Vitamix FoodCycler, toss it in a pot or garden bed and plant some seeds. That said, the finished product from both machines can still be beneficial, though in what way varies.
On the Lomi, “Grow” mode produces the closest thing to finished compost; this can be mixed with soil (at the recommended ratio of 1 part Lomi dirt to 10 parts soil) for plants. Experts recommend adding Lomi Pods to each “Grow” cycle for the best results. The pods are small tablets made from Lomi’s proprietary blend of probiotics; per the website, they help speed up degradation and create “the most nutrient-rich and microbially dense end product, which is the ‘healthiest’ version for your garden and plants.” The Lomi comes with one pack of Lomi Pods, but after that, you’ll have to buy your own.
Dirt from the Lomi’s “Eco-express” mode can technically be added to plants or sprinkled on your lawn, but even Lomi recommends adding it to a compost pile, green bin (if your city offers an organics collection or you use a private service) or back into the machine to be processed in “Grow” mode. That’s because, given the speed of the cycle, the waste you put in there still has degrading to do.
“Lomi approved” mode (which is the only mode that allows bioplastics and packaging) operates at too high a temperature to produce a nutrient-rich output, but you can add the final product to a compost pile or green bin. Worst-case scenario, if you do have to put it in the trash, at least it’s a significantly reduced amount of waste heading to the landfill than it would’ve been prior to running it through the Lomi.
The output from the Vitamix FoodCycler is probably most similar to Lomi’s “Eco-express” mode end product. Per the Vitamix manual, you can use the output (referred to by the company as Recycled Food Compound, or RFC) as soil fertilizer, but only if you keep animal proteins out. Once you have the RFC, Vitamix recommends mixing it with soil in a ratio of 11 parts soil to 1 part RFC, and waiting one to four weeks before planting — that will allow the RFC to continue breaking down in the soil mixture.
After all, as Whiton says, “These machines try to do in hours what nature would otherwise take weeks to do.” In fact, regardless of the machine you have, if you’re going to add the end product to your lawn or other soil, experts like Whiton recommend burying or covering it up a bit by the actual soil so it can continue the decomposing process.
The Lomi allows for a wider range of waste
Lomi’s ability to take (approved) bioplastics and other packaging materials sets it apart not only from the Vitamix FoodCycler but also from backyard compost piles. While compostable plastics are becoming increasingly common, they typically can only be composted in industrial facilities. The “Lomi approved” mode on the countertop machine offers a handy workaround: By breaking down the approved bioplastics, it creates an end product that actually can go into your backyard pile without the need for those high-powered, high-heat machines. Even if you don’t have your own compost pile, this mode can still help you divert certain compostable plastics and packaging from landfills, whether by tossing the end product in a green bin or offering it to a neighbor who composts.
The other Lomi modes also allow for a wider range of food waste than the Vitamix does. The Vitamix manual states, “DO NOT cycle large bones (such as pork or beef bones), pits, candy, gum, nuts or hard shells” (for fear of damaging the bucket or overloading the motor), and warns against any animal protein if you’re going to mix the end product with soil. The Lomi, on the other hand, allows for limited amounts of “confectionery items,” thin nut shells and meat (it’s allowed in all modes, though the company recommends limiting meat to a small amount, maximum, on “Grow” mode).
The Lomi seems to grind more thoroughly
I was a bit surprised by this, given Vitamix is known for its blenders, of all things. But when comparing the outputs from the Vitamix FoodCycler and the Lomi (both “Eco-express” mode and “Lomi approved” mode), I found the latter brand did a slightly better job of breaking down the waste into the most dirt-like substance. The caveat here is that each cycle contained a slightly different mix of waste (I had to work with what I actually had in my kitchen), but I did attempt to keep things as similar as possible — for example, I included chopped-up corncobs in both, knowing those were one of the toughest foods in my testing.
The only real exception was the bioplastics in the Lomi: I included a ripped-up bioplastic bag in the “Lomi approved” mode, and the machine didn’t break it down into as small of pieces as I expected. That said, given you’re not supposed to use the “Lomi approved” output directly into soil anyway, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal; the machine still seemingly processed the material enough to go into a compost bin (and if anything, you can run a second cycle to break it down further).
The difference is even more pronounced when you compare the Vitamix’s output to that from Lomi’s “Grow” mode, given the latter offers the benefit of many extra hours to break down the waste.
The Lomi is more aesthetically pleasing
The Lomi was clearly designed to sit on your counter in plain view. The machine has a high-end look and feel, with a sleek, white exterior and rounded shape. The smooth, matte finish elevates the Lomi to something beyond “functional appliance” and keeps the machine from showing fingerprints and dust, which is a nice bonus.
The Vitamix has a more industrial look, with its boxy shape, black-and-gray exterior, glossy finish and more pronounced handle, indicators and branding. Of course, if you’re not planning to keep the machine out on your counter between uses, this doesn’t matter.
The Vitamix excels in simplicity and cost
If you’re looking for the simplest product, the Vitamix FoodCycler edges the Lomi out. While the Lomi isn’t difficult to use by any means, there’s something to be said about the consistency of knowing what can go into the Vitamix machine every single time you use it (aside from the exception of keeping animal protein out if you’re mixing it with soil), pressing only one button and getting an end product that can be put to use in the exact same way with each cycle.
At baseline, the Vitamix is also $100 cheaper than the Lomi, and it maintains the financial edge when you factor in ongoing costs. While the manual and website don’t specify how frequently the carbon filters need to be replaced (beyond “regularly”), the “Vitamix Team” answered a question on the Best Buy product page a couple years back noting that filters should be replaced every three to four months, or 500 cycle hours. A replacement pack (two filters) costs $24.95.
You may also choose to buy the FoodCycler Foodilizer Tablets; none come with the machine, so you can’t test them out before spending the money, but they seem to be a similar concept to the Lomi Pods. Per the Vitamix website, the tablet “provides beneficial bacteria (i.e., a soil probiotic) to promote plant health in soil that has been mixed with recycled food compound.” Unlike the Lomi Pods, you don’t place these tablets in the FoodCycler itself; rather, you mix one tablet with 16 to 20 ounces of water and spray it on mixed soil (meaning, planting soil that’s mixed with the end product from your FoodCycler machine). A two-pack of tablets costs $24.95, and the website claims one 20-ounce spray bottle should last you an entire planting season.
There’s also the Bucket Lid Filters; your initial FoodCycler includes a lid that fits on your bucket when it’s not in the machine and the lid has a removable carbon filter to help absorb odors. Replacement filters are really only necessary if you’re actually going to use the bucket for waste collection and keep it separate from the rest of the unit; otherwise, you likely won’t use the lid much anyway. If you do use it, Vitamix recommends replacing the lid filter every three to four months. A three-pack costs $11.95.
The Lomi, on the other hand, comes with two pouches of activated charcoal, which is enough to fill both attached filters (one in the back and one on the top) with extra for next time. According to the manual, the change filter light will turn on every three to six months, depending on usage. The company recommends swapping out the filter every three months or every 45 cycles. The included charcoal won’t be enough to fully fill both filters a second time, so it’s a good idea to order more in advance. A one-time purchase of filter refills costs $29.95, $54.95 or $99.95 for 45, 90 or 180 cycles, respectively. You can also subscribe to get the filters shipped to you regularly (also in 45-, 90- or 180-cycle batches) and save 10%. While there may be alternative brands of activated charcoal available, it’s worth noting that your warranty will be voided if you use anything but Lomi’s own product.
You may also choose to keep buying the Lomi Pods after you go through the bag that’s included with your initial order. A one-time purchase of Lomi Pods costs $29.95, $34.95 or $64.95 for 45, 90, or 180 cycles, respectively; as with the activated charcoal, you can save 10% by subscribing instead. If you’re going to continue using Lomi Pods regularly, though, you can bundle them together with the filters for $60, $84.95 or $154.95 for 45, 90 or 180 cycles, respectively (note that you’re only saving money with the bundle on the two larger packs), and get the same 10% discount on a subscription as well. Another completely optional expense is the Lomi Skylight, a clear lid that allows you to witness the whole process for yourself as the cycle runs. While I admit that sounds intriguing, the extra lid costs $99.99, which is quite the expense — not to mention, it feels a bit wasteful to have two lids.
The subscribe-and-save options with the Lomi are nice, but even then, you’ll still end up spending slightly more than you would with the Vitamix.
If your goal is to create finished compost to use in your garden, your best bet is probably to avoid a countertop machine altogether and go the more traditional composting route. “If you know what you’re doing, a traditional composting process will yield a much better end product,” Whiton says. “This is because of a greater diversity of inputs, a greater diversity of microorganisms involved, and more time for them to do their job. These countertop devices are like training wheels on a bike: You probably won’t fall over, but you’re not going to win any medals either.”
That said, if you don’t have the ability or desire to compost another way, both the Lomi Composter and the Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 are solid alternatives. “In any case, it is better than having that food waste hauled off to a landfill where it will produce methane and take those nutrients out of the food system completely,” Whiton says. If you have space to keep a bulky machine out of sight, you want a simple and efficient way to break down food waste for your garden or green bin or you’re on a tight budget, the Vitamix is likely your best bet.
If the actual look of the machine matters to you or you want the freedom of composting a larger variety of waste, and you have the flexibility to spend more money, the Lomi feels like a better overall buy. Plus, the brand offers a 30-day, “no questions asked” free trial, with free return shipping — a pretty major benefit if you’re on the fence about this whole countertop composting thing.