How To Measure Compost Temperature

How To Measure Compost Temperature

Making your compost is a terrific method to recycle your home and garden trash and turn it into an organic fertilizer that will enrich the soil and plants with nutrients. But do you find it difficult to determine when it is ideal to turn your compost pile?

Bringing compost to the proper temperature before turning it is the key to creating the ideal compost.

Compost bacteria are activated by heat, and stirring the pile at the right moment will promote quicker compost production and higher-quality compost.

One of the most important parameters for composting is temperature. The system is getting hot? When does it get hot? How long does the heat last? How is the temperature profile impacted by mixing?

How To Measure Compost Temperature

You will need a long-probe thermometer (typically 4 feet in length) to measure the temperature of the compost by taking readings from the center of the window static pile. When getting temperature readings from an active windrow or static pile,

it’s critical to create a reliable technique and locations. Be as careful as possible to collect temperature readings that are indicative of the entire batch of compost.


Ideally, two temperatures should be obtained at each site: a core temperature taken 4 feet or more into the compost pile and a near-surface temperature taken about 12 inches below the surface. These routine temperature observations are typically collected at a height of around 4 feet.

Use a probe that extends far into the compost to get accurate temperature readings. After allowing time for the reading to stabilize, relocate the probe to a new site.

Take readings at various depths from the top and sides, as well as at various positions.

Number of measurements

A highly thorough picture of the temperature situation can be obtained by taking temperatures every 150 linear feet of the window (about every 50 paces) or every 200 cubic yards.

Not every facility, though, has the funding to take this many readings. For management purposes, a minimum of six uniformly spaced readings per pile, windrow, or vessel give the fundamental temperature information.

In an active compost windrow, temperature readings offer a fast evaluation of the state of the biological processes. Temperature measurements change initially when ideal moisture and oxygen conditions are obtained.

Daily measurements of the temperature collected when pathogen reduction temperatures are being attained (when the easiest technique to determine whether pathogen decrease is occurring is to use temperatures that have reached 55 oC (131 oF).


A spreadsheet should be used to keep track of temperatures and turning occasions. This fact sheet includes a sample field log that you can customize for your facility’s requirements.

Can I Use A Food Thermometer For Compost?

Although thermometers do make composting a little bit easier, you can compost without one without a doubt. You can use thermometers to determine when to stir your compost pile when to add new compost, when to add water, and when your compost is finished.

How Do You Monitor Your Compost?

Use an accurate outdoor monitor with a soil temperature sensor to keep tabs on the temperature of the compost. Several inches deep into the pile, bury the wired soil temperature sensor. The Monitor should then be placed nearby to gauge the ambient air quality.

Further Reading

  1. Compost application increases the soil temperature on bare Andosol in a cool climate region
  2. Duration of Composting and Changes in Temperature, pH and C/N Ratio during Composting: A Review
  3. Effect of Temperature Changes on the Bacterial and Fungal Succession Patterns during Composting of Some Organic Wastes in Greenhouse
  4. Effect of temperature on bacterial species diversity in thermophilic solid-waste composting.