Tina, this is a perennially (LOL) interesting question here on the Soil-composting forum. I am a fan of the Smith and Hawken BioStack, which is durable, neat, and easy to use (e.g., toss.) In fact, I have invested in three over the years. Below is a site on "epinions" that gives a good overview.
Attached is a photo of my BioStacks, taken last October. Note that you can stack up the tiers to make a taller pile, which I have done on the left of the photo. The two garbage cans are full of finished compost. (Forgive brazen bragging.)
BioStack sounds and looks best from what I've been reading here, used as two piles that you turn from one to the other at times. I don't have one but can see the way users talk about them here makes sense. Great that you can make one even taller.
But along with buying a composter I think you'll be most satisfied if you really understand how compost happens and doesn't happen. No composter will make perfect fluffy brown compost with no effort.
puddlepirate...The SoilSaver Classic is open on the bottom, right? How long does it typically take for your composter to make compost? Do you open the lid and just mix it or just let it bake on its own? They have that composter at Sam's Club right now and I am considering it for my first. I like the compact size. Thanks!
It's open on the bottom, and it has doors down at ground level so you can pull out the finished compost. I have been adding browns and greens as I get them, and I mix/aerate the pile about once a week when it's above freezing at night. I haven't messed with it since December, but the weather will warm up enough in ~3 weeks to start stirring the contents again.
I haven't kept track of how long it's taken to cook down to finished compost. That's mainly because my crappy clay soil needs all the organic matter I can find, so I often just lift the bottom door (to see if the contents look and smell mostly done) and take what I need. I'm told that if I were more "hands-on", the SoilSaver would give me finished compost in ~6 weeks.
I also have an open pile beside my house, so once it finishes I'll have enough compost to allow my upcoming spring batch to cook completely in the SoilSaver
Thanks for the info. I think it will meet my initial needs and the price is certainly right, so I think I may give it a try. If I find I need something larger, I can always get an additional one or buy a larger composter.
I just added my two bits to another post and mentioned Soil Saver and Bio Stack as my favorites, so I concur with suggestions above.
I worked for the Brooklyn Composting program for 15 years and we tested many bins. We did not like the tumblers but the two mentioned here were the best in our testing.
Subsidies from the NYC Dept. of Sanitation allowed us to make the Soil Saver available to the public for a discount and we would sell hundreds for $20 each and they normally sold for around $60 (Bio Stack is more expensive). Another recommendation is to get the LoTech compost crank. In my opinion, it's the greatest asset to easy composting and saves your back. Check out www.lotech.com
The book Easy Composting (www.bbg.org) is a great resource.