Jump to content

- - - - -

BB Tek - A complete walk through; spores to LC to jars to bulk substrate

  • Please log in to reply
49 replies to this topic

#1 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:08 PM


This is not a new Tek. This Tek is a compilation of existing ideas and work with a few slight modifications (and pics, ‘cause everybody loves pics). This Tek is a loose compilation of just about everything I have learned about this hobby.

A number of parts here are optional and just intended to teach the “whole process.” It IS suggested that you follow the whole thing through once or twice, just to get the experience under your belt.

A word of thanks and recognition goes to Hippie3 (administrator/owner of – the best mushroom cultivation site for adults on the Internet). Was it not for his archives, this document would not exist.

If you frequent Mycotopia, you should strongly consider donating some money to the cause. Bandwidth and hosting space are not cheap.

Another word of thanks goes to Mycotopia’s moderators. Was it not for them being so positive and willing to answer even the “dumbest” of newbie questions, this document would not exist.

The final thanks goes to you: the noobie, the seeker. YOU are the audience to whom this document is aimed. YOU are the soul I wish to touch.

This document comes in 17 parts:

1. Build an incubator.
2. Build a terrarium.
3. Prepare jar lids.
4. Make an airport syringe.
5. Prepare, inoculate and incubate a liquid culture jar.
6. Prepare substrate jars.
7. Prepare LC syringe.
8. Inoculate and incubate substrate jars.
9. Prepare EarthJuice tea.
10. Prepare bulk substrate.
11. Prepare bulk trays.
12. Crumble cakes into bulk and incubate until 100% colonized.
13. Prepare casing material.
14. Case and incubate until 25% run.
15. Place bulk trays in terrarium.
16. Harvest, drying and storage.
17. Dunk and re-case.

If you follow this process carefully and ask questions about anything you don’t completely understand, you are virtually guaranteed of being able to grow mushrooms. This is not a difficult process if you follow instructions and ask questions. The processes expressed here have allowed thousands of people to successfully cultivate mushrooms.


Many components of this process can be substituted for or modified, but your chances of success are lessened slightly with each deviation you make…especially at first. Try to follow whatever Tek you choose to the letter the first few times. Only after you have the basics down pat should you begin modifying and/or innovating. There is nothing wrong with creativity unless it gets in the way of success!
  • wildedibles and OldNef like this

#2 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:19 PM

You can grow mushrooms at any temperature where a human would be comfortable.

Incubating jars in a cardboard box on top of the fridge will work, if cost is a concern.

The reason to build an incubator is to maintain a dark 82F environment for your jars and bulk substrate trays. Mycelia grows fastest in an 84F environment, but the incubator should be kept at 82F because jars will be 1-2 degrees warmer on the inside (mycelia growth is exothermic). Jars/trays will grow at cooler temperatures, but they will grow slower.

All the steps of this process should be thought of as a race against time or, more specifically, a race against contaminants. Once a jar is fully colonized, it is far more difficult for contaminants to get a foot hold. Anything that slows the mycelia is a bad thing. Anything that can be done to optimize conditions for the mycelia is a good thing. Optimal mycelia growth occurs in the dark at 82F. Building an incubator is optional but *highly* recommended.

Parts list:

  • Large cooler, plastic is best
  • Aquarium heater, Won Brothers Pro Heat (must be submersible & saltwater safe)
  • Big plastic jug with tight fitting lid (aquarium heater must fit inside)
  • 12v power supply
  • 1 or 2 small 12v computer fans (processor fans work fine)
  • Strong glue (Goop works great)

A plastic cooler is better than metal because of the wires and electricity involved. The more flexible lid/lip of a plastic cooler will help keep your wires from getting pinched and/or cut when you open and close the lid.

The first step is to modify the drink jug’s lid so you can run the wires through it and still close it tightly (with the aquarium heater inside). The jug must have a water tight seal with the heater inside.

Using a good quality jug (Rubbermaid’s are great) will make sealing easier. You can also use any large plastic bottle (including a 2 liter soda or large water bottle), but regular bottles tend to be harder to seal properly. Sealing regular bottles tends to involve lots of silicone and duct tape.

If the jug doesn’t seal well, the hot water will evaporate and the inside of the incubator will drip with humidity (very bad, you want the incubator dry inside). Evaporation will also mean having to open the jug back up to refill it with water regularly. An aquarium heater that runs even partially dry will burn out very quickly, possibly starting a fire. The jug must have a solidly water tight seal.

The jug, with the aquarium heater sealed inside, is now called a heat bomb.

After all the glue on the heat bomb’s lid is dry, add 5 or 6 tablespoons of salt and fill it up with tap water. Check carefully for leaks and seal any you find. The heating element must stay completely submerged at all times or it will burn out. The salt will keep contaminants from growing in the warm water inside the bomb. Salt is a good choice as a disinfectant because it won’t evaporate.

Heatbomb (made from a Rubbermaid drink pitcher) lid closeup.

You can use any aquarium heater, but the Won Brothers Pro Heat is highly recommended. The Pro Heat has an easy to adjust/read dial and a remote thermal probe. The Pro Heat II line also has a digital temperature display (very nice, but expensive).

Won Bo & Probe.jpg

Won Brothers Pro Heat controller and remote temperature probe. This is *not* the right temperature setting. I turned it up to get the LED to come on for the picture.

Do NOT put the remote temperature probe inside the bomb. Put the probe on the wall of the incubator as far from the bomb and fan as possible. Put the bomb itself in the center of the cooler, not on the end.

One side of the cooler. The probe is about 12 inches away from the bomb.

Glue the little computer fans up high on the incubator walls, aiming down on an angle at the bottom of the cooler. Do NOT direct either fan to blow directly on the temperature probe. Wire up the fans to the 12v power supply and tape/glue the wires to the side of the cooler. The fans should run continuously or the incubator will form “hot spots.”


Fan placement.


Now close it up and let it run for a few hours. Once you are certain it won’t explode or catch fire, close it up and don’t open it again for 24 hours. If there is a lot of condensation when you open the incubator, you have leaks in the bomb. Seal them. You want your incubator dry inside.

After running for 48 hours, the temperature inside the incubator should have stabilized. Use a thermometer to test the accuracy of the heater’s control dial. You want the incubator at 81F-82F. Warmer will invite trouble. If you can’t hit 82F, go cooler.

Now you have a big plastic cooler that can maintain a specific (and adjustable) temperature. This cooler is now called an incubator.

Incubator filled with projects.

Please note all the space between the different projects. You want to maintain some space in the incubator for air flow. The moving air distributes the heat. Without the moving air, projects close to the heat bomb will be much warmer than those a few inches away.

If you have so many jars/trays that the incubator becomes “stuffed”…build another incubator! Don’t overfill your incubator or you will get “hot spots” and your results will suffer.

NOTE: Be aware that, depending on the size of your incubator, your heat bomb will run anywhere from 4 to 10 degrees warmer than the 82F ambient temperature. That is to say, to maintain 82F in the incubator, the heat bomb may run at 86F to over 95F.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:11 PM.

  • budgreen, whirledpeas and OldNef like this

#3 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:26 PM

The terrarium (also called the fruiting environment) has one simple purpose: to provide an environment for growing mushrooms. The terrarium needs three things to be successful: high humidity, light and fresh air.

A casing needs an environment of %80 - %90 RH (Relative Humidity) to fruit and grow mushrooms. Humidity in this terrarium is passively maintained by evaporation, using Perlite floating on water.

Mushrooms are photosensitive. They need a source of light a few hours per day to initiate the formation of pins (baby mushrooms). Mushrooms do not manufacture food from light like green plants – they don’t photosynthesize, so they don’t need high powered grow lights. In this terrarium, a florescent strip on a timer provides all the light that is needed.

Mushrooms do not need a lot of fresh air to grow. Mushrooms can be grown quite effectively “in vitro” with very little fresh air. In a terrarium, fresh air is important because stale air favors contaminants. A casing in stale, moist air will be much more likely to become infested with cobweb mold or trich. In this terrarium, fresh air is provided by a high output aquarium pump.

This design is automated. It is intended to provide everything a casing needs to fruit and to do it with a minimal amount of input (work) from the grower. Although the terrarium should be checked every day, this design can be used in a “set it and forget it” mode.

This terrarium is designed for casings, not cakes. The computer fan will dry exposed cakes very quickly. If you intend to fruit cakes, remove the fan (or turn it off).

The environment intended for this design is %40-%60 RH and 60F-70F (ambient conditions). If your environment is much warmer or more humid, using an aquarium heater may not be required. If it is much cooler, you may need a larger heater. Humidity is maintained in this terrarium by evaporation from the Perlite (passive humidification). If the terrarium’s internal temperature is below 70F, passive humidification will not be enough. In a super dry/cool environment, it is imperative that the terrarium be maintained at around 75F-78F to maintain high humidity.

This terrarium must not be completely sealed, or the aquarium pump will not be able to introduce fresh air. If you are having trouble maintaining humidity, sealing almost all the air leaks (remember, *some* air must be able to escape) will improve the situation.

Parts List:

  • Perlite (at least a gallon and a half, you’ll need a 3-5 inch layer on the bottom of the tub)
  • Large plastic tub with lid, 20-30 gallon size is good (much larger gets heavy)
  • Some kind of rack that fits the bottom of the tub (upside down dish drying racks work great, you’ll need to hold your casings about 5-6 inches above the bottom of the tub)
  • Plastic cutting board that sits on the rack, inside the tub and leaves at least 1 inch clearance around the edges.
  • Tube of silicone caulk & caulking gun (if you don’t have one)
  • Glass cutting board (will be the “light window” in the tub’s lid)
  • Florescent strip light about the same width as the cutting board
  • Cheap light timer that you can set for 12 on / 12 off
  • Power strip and/or extension cords (as needed)
  • High output aquarium pump (at least two air outlets, four is better)
  • 4-6 feet aquarium tubing (more if needed)
  • An aquarium air stone
  • Submersible salt water type aquarium heater, 250-350 watt (won’t be needed if the grow room is kept 74F-80F).
  • Big jug of bleach
  • Cheap 12v computer fan (very small)
  • Cheap 6v (or switchable 6/9/12 volt) DC power supply.
  • AC timer that will do 15min on/15min off cycles.
  • Optional - smallish thermometer to hang on the inside of the tub (needs to show from 65F-85F).

The first point of consideration is a decision about the type of tub you will use. Opaque or transparent is the first question to answer. If you want to be a little more discrete, get an opaque tub. If you want to watch ‘em grow and buy less stuff, get a transparent tub. If you go transparent, you don’t need the caulk, gun, and glass cutting board, because you won’t need to make a window in the tub’s lid (just set the strip light directly on it).

The second question is how big a tub to buy. Don’t forget, the finished tub will be filled with 3-4 inches of water. A really big tub will be quite heavy. IMHO, two 30 gallon tubs are much better than one 60 gallon tub. Once you choose the tub, find a rack for the bottom of it. An upside down dish drying rack works great. You just need something to hold your projects up above the Perlite. If you buy the tub and rack at a giant “Mart” type store, you can mix and match tubs and racks until a good fit is achieved.

Pick out the cutting board at the same time you get the tub and rack to make certain it fits. The cutting board shouldn’t fit up tight against the walls of the tub. You need an inch (or more) of clearance to let the humidity flow up from the Perlite.

Once you are home with all the parts, lay the tub’s lid down on the floor, put the glass cutting board in the center of it and trace around it with a sharpie. With a sharp razor knife (or sawing with a serrated steak knife) *VERY CAREFULLY* cut a square out of the lid about two inches smaller than the cutting board. You’ll need a lip to set the board on. Below, you can see the black sharpie line that defines the cutting board just to the left of the newly cut window.

PLEASE don’t try to cut a plastic tub while inebriated (unless you enjoy stitches or feel that you have too many fingers). PLEASE be careful when cutting plastic tubs. Seriously.

Window cut to size in terrarium lid.

Open up the caulk and put a THICK double bead around the hole. Carefully set the cutting board down in the caulk and wiggle/squish it just a little to spread the caulk out. Let this dry for at least 48 hours (72 is better, especially if you use the whole tube of caulk, like me). Once it dries, the caulk won’t stick well to the tub, but will stick great to the cutting board. Don’t be surprised when the board/caulk comes loose from the lid a few weeks later. The caulk stuck to the glass will be shaped to fit the top of the tub and will still form an acceptable seal.

Glass cutting board silicone caulk "glued" to tub lid.

Don’t seal the tub lid to the tub base. You need some air to escape. If the tub is totally sealed, the aquarium pump will not be able to introduce fresh air. Don’t ignore the caulk around the cutting board. Too much air escaping from the tub will prevent it from maintaining high humidity.

Drill a hole the same size as the aquarium tubing up near the top of the tub. If you run the air hose between the tub and lid (instead of drilling a hole) you’ll pinch the hose. If you set the dish rack on top of the hose, you’ll pinch it. Don’t pinch the hose or you won’t get any fresh air.

Rack and hose position.

Mount the thermometer on an inside wall of the tub so you’ll be able to see it easily. Goop adhesive works well for this unless you get a thermometer with Velcro or double sided tape.

Open up the bag of Perlite carefully. Don’t pour it out and don’t shake it up! When disturbed, dry Perlite produces a fine white dust that isn’t good for your lungs (Perlite dust is basically powdered glass). Open the Perlite and, using a hose or shower head, add a lot of water (1/2 gallon or so) into the bag of Perlite. Once thoroughly wetted, you can pour the Perlite into the tub without producing a big cloud of glass dust!


Pour enough wet Perlite into the tub to form a layer 3-5 inches thick. Add water until the Perlite layer is floating on 2-3 inches of water (Perlite looks like little white rocks, but it actually floats). Don’t put in so much water that it’s over the top of the dish drying rack. Your projects should not touch the Perl. The top of the Perl should be at least ½ inch below the bottom of the cutting board.

Now add four cups of bleach and stir everything up with a big plastic or wooden spoon. Don’t mix bleach with metal utensils (ESPECIALLY not aluminum utensils) as the bleach can cause some metals to corrode/rust/oxidize very quickly. Only plastics and/or wood should used with bleach.

You will religiously add one half cup of bleach to this tub every two weeks from now on.

Please read that sentence above again. If you forget the bleach, your reward will be a horrid stank and a bunch of contaminated projects.

If you do not add bleach regularly, all that standing water will invite contaminants very quickly and will stink to high heaven. Plenty of bleach and plenty of aeration with the air stone/pump will keep your tub water cleaner than any outdoor pool. Forgetting the bleach will make for contaminated projects and a stanky tub. Don’t forget the bleach!

When you add bleach, top the tub off with fresh tap water. If the water level runs too low, the aquarium heater will run dry and quickly burn out. You may be able to get away with adding water once a month, but doing it every two weeks when you add bleach is safer. .

Don’t forget the tub will get heavy once it is full of water and Perl. You might want to fill the tub where it’s going to sit or at least not down stairs from where it’s going to sit.

Put the rack in the bottom of the tub. Put the aquarium stone on the end of a nice long section of hosing and feed the hose through the rack (not under the rack). Submerge the stone and push it down under the Perl towards the center of the tub. Leave a little slack on the hose so the stones don’t get pulled up above water level accidentally (picture above).

Check the stone every time you top up the water to make sure it is still bubbling nicely. Air stones will dissolve and clog pretty quickly (often, within a month or two) in all that bleach. Air stones are CHEAP. Buy a bag and replace them often.

Put the aquarium heater on the bottom of the tub, under the water but NOT under the edge of the rack, just like the stones. Don’t pinch the heater’s cord with the rack. Don’t set the rack on the heater (it can break pretty easily under weight). If you will need to get to the heater to adjust the temperature, leave some slack on the cord for easier access.

If you run a cheap aquarium heater dry for more than 30 seconds or so, it will burn up and possibly start a fire. Aquarium heaters must stay submerged while turned on. Run the cord out the top of the tub and over to the power strip. The tub lid will sit on top of the cord.

Set the light timer for 12 on / 12 off. Plug up the florescent light to the timer and put it on top of the lid. If you are going to need to get to the heater to adjust temperature, don’t put the cutting board on the rack yet.

Cutting board on dish rack, bottom of the terrarium.

Glue the fan up in a corner of the tub so it points at the top of the tub. DO NOT aim the fan so it points anywhere near a casing’s surface. The fan will dry a casing badly if it blows right on it. Don’t buy expensive fans. They will rust out in the humid environment of the tub after a few months. The best price I have seen on computer fans is buying a bulk lot of 10 (or more) from eBay.

All computer fans make some noise, the smaller the fan/faster it is spinning the more noise it will make. DO NOT waste money on a quiet/ultra-quiet fan as they are nearly as loud as the regular kind. If sound is a consideration (i.e. you need total stealth), simply omit the computer fan/air pump and manually fan the terrarium 2-5 times per day. Manual fanning is done by removing the terrarium lid (or the glass window, if it has come loose) and waving a big piece of cardboard back and forth above it. The point is to blow out the old, stale air and replace it with fresh air.

If you don’t use the fan/air pump, you MUST manually fan to stir the terrarium’s air up at least twice (but preferably three or four times) per day.

Hook up the fan to the power supply temporarily to verify polarity. Most DC motors won’t spin if polarity is reversed. You will be using a 6 volt supply and a 12 volt fan. You don’t want the fan spinning at full speed. It will dry your casings excessively. Also, a fan spinning at half speed makes much less noise.

If your fan has a red, black and yellow wire, the yellow wire is the tachometer. DO NOT run voltage through the yellow wire or you might fry the fan. Red is positive and Black is negative. Yellow isn’t used, if red and black are present. If only Yellow and Black are present, Yellow is positive and Black is negative. The wires coming from the power supply will have a white (or other color) stripe on one conductor. On the power supply, the marked wire is positive. The unmarked wire is negative.

Now hook the fan’s power supply up to the timer. When setting the fan timer, 15 minutes on/15 minutes off works. 15 on/30-45 off will also work, if drying becomes a problem. If the fan runs continuously, you will need to mist the casings twice a day and your mushrooms will be crackly and stunted (excessive air circulation will cause Hua-Gu formation). Don’t omit the fan timer.

Finished terrarium with strip light sitting on top.

Plug everything in (pump, heater, timers, lights) and let it run for 48 hours. Learn to enjoy the mild smell of chlorine if this is in your bedroom. A little chlorine smell means clean & healthy tub water.

After 48 hours, check in on the new tub. You want to adjust the aquarium heater a little every 6 hours or so until it hangs in the 72F-78F range. A little less won’t kill you, a little higher will favor contaminants. Don’t adjust the heater more often than once every 6 hours. It takes that little heater a while to change the temperature in that big tub.

In the suggested environmental range, with the air pump running 24/7, your tub should stay in the %80-%90 RH range. Good humidity results in a light, misty condensation on the walls and inside lid of the tub. The cover should not drip when lifted. Lots of dripping indicates that RH is too high. Severe dripping leads to major problems.

You can lower the humidity level by raising the air stone above water level (take the stone off for better air flow, if you do) and/or turning the heater down. Cooler air will hold less moisture. Below 65F, the wet Perlite will not evaporate effectively and humidity will be too low to be effective.

Once you are sure how the tub is going to perform, let it run a few more days before you introduce your cases. If something is going to fritz out on you, it’s far less nerve racking to go for parts before your babies are depending on you.

A hygrometer will tell you roughly what the humidity level inside the terrarium is, but hygrometers which are accurate at high humidity are quite expensive. A good rule of thumb is that if it costs less than $30, it is probably not worth the investment. If funds are limited, omit the hygrometer. DON’T leave a hygrometer inside the terrarium – the high humidity will ruin it after a while. Place the hygrometer inside the terrarium for two hours, take a reading and then remove it.

A hygrometer is not required. Condensation on the walls of the tub will tell you if the humidity is right.

The Won Brothers heater is a good investment, because it will last longer and its components are designed to be submerged in salt water (salt water, like bleach water, is highly corrosive). The cheap Mega-Mart brand heater’s plastic parts will start to stiffen and eventually crack after being submerged for months in strong bleach water. The Won Brothers units have precisely labeled adjustment knobs and the higher end models have remote temperature probes and/or digital thermostats. No guessing temps with these.

Check to make sure your fan is still spinning every time you open the terrarium. As soon as the fan seizes up and stops turning, replace it with a new one.

Once operating properly, the tub will produce an environment with high humidity, daily light exposure and a continuous flow of fresh air. The tub is now called a terrarium. The environment inside the tub is referred to as fruiting conditions (FC) because conditions are ripe for the formation of pins (primordia) and the growth of mature fruit bodies (carpophores or, more commonly, mushrooms).

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:13 PM.

#4 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:35 PM

Jar lids are important. The classic PF Tek jar lid uses four nail holes for inoculation and a layer of dry vermiculite to prevent contamination of the substrate. Airborne contaminants are filtered out by the vermiculite and if you inject carefully, the verm slides back to “heal” the injection site when you remove the needle. Dry verm makes an adequate contaminant barrier. We will use the dry verm layer on top of our jars, but we will also use tyvek for filtered air exchange and silicone for self healing injection ports. Ports and Tyvek aren't required, but they certainly don't hurt.

Parts List:

1. Jar lids (metal or plastic)
2. Tyvek (envelopes from the post office)
3. Smallish metal washers (2 for each lid)
4. GE Silicone II caulk (clear)
5. Caulking gun
6. Electric drill
7. 3/16 drill bit

Begin by using the washers to trace out a bunch of circles on the tyvek envelope. Using sharp scissors cut out these circles. You will need two circles for each lid. This is annoyingly time consuming. The process can be sped up by stapling four layers of Tyvek together and cutting all four layers at once.

Now drill five 3/16 inch holes in each lid. Make one hole in the center and four around the outer edges. Don’t go too close to the edges. It is easy to do a large number of lids quickly by stacking them up and drilling them all at once. After drilling, *carefully* remove the sharp metal shavings from the holes. If you aren’t careful, you will cut your fingertips quite badly on the shavings. Use leather gloves and a rat tail file, if you have them. Using plastic lids avoids these sharp metal fragments.

If you do not have access to a drill, you can use a nail to punch the holes..

lid with washer.jpg
Lid showing hole positions (top washer already attached).

Cut open the tube of caulk so it will lay a reasonably large bead. Put a large blob of caulk on the top of each of the four outer edge holes. Work the caulk with the gun tip to get it smeared a little around the edges. Don’t go all the way to the lid’s edge with the caulk or the bands won’t sit flat. Once the four holes are “blobbed” on top, flip the lid over and put a smaller blob on the underside. Let the lid dry sitting flat for 24 hours. An empty jar makes a nice support for a lid while it is drying.

injector port top.jpg
Inoculation hole with silicone blob. Note clean edge so band will sit flat.

lid underside.jpg
Inoculation hole underside.

Glue two washers over the center hole (one on top, one on bottom) with silicone. Use the silicone to glue a tyvek circle over each washer (one on top, one on bottom). The point of the washers is to provide a dead air space between the tyvek layers. The dead air space is a physical barrier against any contaminant that might wick through the tyvek by capillary action if it gets wet.

lid with washer.jpg
Washer on jar top without tyvek.

lid underside.jpg
Washer and tyvek on jar bottom.

two lids.jpg
Two lids, one with tyvek and one without.

Let everything dry for another 24 hours before using.

You can inject spores or LC through the 4 silicone blobs and they will close up (heal) when you remove the needle. Do not inject through the tyvek. The double tyvek filter is for air exchange only. If you inject into the silicone blobs in a different spot each time, the ports will last longer. If you inject through the same spot every time, the silicone blob will deteriorate (and subsequently leak) much quicker.

These silicone blobs are now referred to as self healing injection ports.

As soon as a port becomes noticeably deteriorated, scrape it off with a razor blade and apply a fresh one. If you change injection angles, a thick port should be good for hundreds of needle sticks before needing replacement. When using injection ports, sharp (not blunted) needles are preferred.

Using this lid design, you could omit the dry vermiculite layer called for in the classic PF Tek, but you shouldn’t. Tyvek can breathe so well (even through two layers) that a dry spot forms right below the filter. A dry spot on a cake won’t colonize and is a contamination vector after birth. The verm layer will prevent dry spots.

Make at least two lids for liquid culture jars. Liquid culture jars don’t need tyvek vents, just two silicone injection ports.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:15 PM.

  • JanetPlanet likes this

#5 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:39 PM

When you pressure cook a liquid culture jar (with no tyvek vent) a strong vacuum will form within the jar. That vacuum is strong enough to suck a 10mL spore syringe dry within less than a second. A vacuum can also suck in contaminants when you pierce the injection port. Vacuums are bad and need to be vented.

After a liquid culture is colonized, you will need to remove the mycelia rich water to inoculate jars. When you use a syringe to remove 10mL of liquid from a sealed container, you need to put back in 10mL of air or a vacuum will form. Vacuums are bad and need to be vented.

The airport syringe allows you to introduce highly filtered air. It allows you to vent the vacuum with no risk of contamination.

Parts List:

  • 10mL Luer lock syringe with 18-20 Ga needle
  • Handful of polyfill

Polyfill can be acquired at any “Mart,” fabric or sewing store. Polyfill is a fluffy synthetic material used to stuff pillows and toys. It is also called polyester batting. You can also acquire Polyfill from aquarium stores, where it is called synthetic filter material, polyester filter material or angel hair filter material. Polyfill from the aquarium shop will cost more than polyfill from the fabric store, but it will be the same material.

If you absolutely can’t find Polyfill, you can use medical grade non-absorbent cotton (unbleached). DO NOT USE COTTON BALLS FROM THE DRUG STORE. If you use cotton, you have to be careful not to let it get wet when pressure cooking. If it does get wet, you have to let it dry out and then re-sterilize before use. Cotton airport syringes should always be wrapped tightly in aluminum foil before being PCed. Cotton is drastically inferior to polyfill for airport syringes.

Start by removing the plunger and needle from your 10mL syringe. Grab a handful of Polyfill and twist it into a smallish cylinder with a point.

Twisted Polyfill, ready for syringe insertion.

Force the Polyfill into the syringe and, while twisting continuously, force enough material into the syringe to fill it about 90% full.

Without letting any polyfill come out of the syringe, untwist it so that it expands inside the syringe body. Cut the polyfill with a sharp pair of scissors. Using the syringe plunger, force the filler material down into the syringe ½ inch or so. You don’t want fibers sticking out everywhere. Twist the needle on and it will look like this:

Completed airport syringe.

Making two or three of these is a good idea, if you have the syringes to spare. Hint: you can get syringes REAL cheap (in bulk) on eBay...

Before use, the airport needs to be sterilized. Wrap it up in an aluminum foil envelope and put it in the PC at 15psi for 30 minutes (or longer). You can cook tools like this whenever you cook jars. You don’t have to sterilize an airport syringe between every use (it doesn’t hurt), but you should flame the syringe red hot between each jar/use.

Only insert the airport syringe a short distance into the injection port when using it. You only want the part of the syringe that got red hot during flaming to go past the silicone injection port. Let a red hot syringe needle cool for at least 5 seconds before injecting a port. A red hot needle will damage silicone.
Below is a silicone injector port lid and airport syringe in action. As water is drawn into the 60mL syringe, sterile filtered air is drawn through the airport syringe. The pint jar of tap water was run through the PC to sterilize. Sterile water was removed from the pint for a number of weeks without becoming contaminated, using the airport syringe and silicone injection ports.

Airport syringe and injector ports in action.

Silicone injection ports and airport syringes allow the home mycologist to work with a much lower risk of contamination.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:16 PM.

#6 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:42 PM

The abbreviation for liquid culture is LC. When you see LC, the author is talking about a liquid culture.
You don’t have to use LCs. You can use a spore syringe to inoculate jars directly and omit this step. The question is one of simple economics. A 10mL spore syringe will inoculate roughly 8-10 half pint jars. If you use 1mL of spores to create 300mL of LC, you can inoculate 250-300 jars and still have 9mL of spores left in the syringe.

The process of turning a few mL of spore water into a few hundred mL of liquid culture is referred to as “expanding” the culture. LC is the three dimensional equivalent of expanding cultures on a Petri dish.

Expanding cultures through LC is an important technique to master. LCs will save you a lot of money on spores and open the door to cloning your best fruits later on. If you add agar to the recipe below, you can pour your own Petri dishes and slants.

Parts/ingredients list:

  • 500mL DISTILLED water
  • 2 Teaspoons of Karo Syrup
  • Pinch (less than .1mg) of bee pollen
  • *TINY* amount of unscented dish washing detergent or Jet Dry
  • 6 mg of Light Malt Extract (from here on, LME; I like the Sporeworks brand)
  • 6 mg of Dextrose (I like the Sporeworks brand)
  • 6 clear glass marbles OR a small pile of broken glass.
  • 2 pint jars
  • 2 jar lids with silicone injector ports (but no Tyvek vents)
  • 2 jar bands to secure lids
  • Pressure cooker capable of maintaining 5psi
  • Incubator capable of maintaining 84F
  • Scale capable of measuring in .1 gm increments

I’ve never tried it personally, but I am told that sucrose (table sugar) will work. ANY sugar (in the right proportion) should work. Don’t lock yourself into these ingredients, just the magic ratio of 4% sugar (by weight) to water. Honey works. Pure dextrose works. I’m pretty certain glucose would work. Lactose might even work. If you get the percentages right ANY sugar should work. A mixture of sugars seems to work a *little* better than just one sugar. If you only use one sugar, use Karo syrup (1 teaspoon per 100mL distilled water).

The magic ratio of 4% is achieved by mixing 4g of sugar with 96g of water. Remember that 96g of water is also 96mL of water. Different sugars are different densities, so it is hard to give a volume (tablespoon) measurement of how much to add. Get a cheap digital .1 gram scale. They are immensely helpful for many aspects of this hobby. Measuring doses is much easier with a .1 gram scale, for instance.

BE AWARE: a good LC will taste just barely sweet by human standards. If your “sugar water” tastes sweet, it is too strong. If your LC is too weak, growth will be sluggish. If your LC is too strong, growth will be prevented completely. DON’T add extra sugar to speed things up – it doesn’t work that way. Too much sugar will prevent growth.

Start with 500mL of distilled (not tap) water heated in the microwave or on the stove. If you use a microwave to heat distilled water, either use a rough sided container or insert a chopstick, to prevent the possibility of superheating and the resultant nasty burn. Hot water dissolves sugars MUCH better. Take the 500mL of hot distilled water and add your LME, dextrose and Karo. Stir until all the sugars dissolve completely. There should be no sediment remaining when you stop stirring.

Now you need to add the detergent/Jet Dry. You want about 1/12-1/16 of a drop. A *VERY* tiny amount is all you need. The correct amount can be acquired by putting a drop on a plate and then touching the drop with the tip of a toothpick. After a few seconds, stir the toothpick in the hot sugar water. This will add the “proper” amount of detergent. DON’T USE ANY FORM OF ANTIBACTERIAL/ANTIFUNGICIDAL DETERGENT. Detergents with emollients and perfumes should also be avoided.

Now you have 500mL of hot “soapy” sugar water. Pour about 250mL of this solution into each pint jar. An LC jar should only be ½ to 1/3 full. Do NOT fill an LC jar completely. You need plenty of air in that sealed container for healthy mycelia growth. Add the marbles at this point. I prefer marbles because I’m a clumsy putz. If you feel safe working with shards of broken glass, they WILL work a little better. You do not absolutely have to use marbles or glass, they just make things a little easier.

Now PC your LC jars for 15 minutes at 5psi. Since these jars have no tyvek vent, the band must not be screwed on tight. Just barely finger tight is perfect. Let the jars cool inside the PC. As SOON as the PC is cool enough to open, tighten the bands. Wait 24hrs before using these jars. If you can’t wait that long, wait until they are cool enough to hold against your face (comfortably) for more than 30 seconds. A hot LC will kill your spores.

Your LC jars may have a little bit of sandy particulate stuff in them after the PC run. This is from the LME. Don’t worry about it unless there is a whole lot of it. If there is a bunch of sandy stuff in the jar, it has probably “caramelized.” Badly caramelized jars won’t work very well and should be discarded. Remember, a small amount of sandy stuff is OK.

Once the jar cools, it is ready for use. Shake it violently for 5 minutes until it is nice and frothy on the inside. This puts oxygen back in the water. The PC run will drive most of the oxygen out of the water. Mycelia needs oxygen to grow. This is why you shake and also why you leave the air space in the LC jar. If you leave air inside the jar, you don’t need to worry about any kind of fresh air vent.

Your LC jar will have a vacuum in it after pressure cooking. You need to release that vacuum before injecting spores. Simply inject the LC jar with a flamed airport syringe to release the vacuum BEFORE injecting spores. A vacuum jar will suck a spore syringe dry almost instantly. After inserting the airport syringe, wait 10 seconds to allow the vacuum to be fully released.

Shake your spore syringe very thoroughly before each use. Flame the needle red hot, let it cool and then inject 2 mL of spore water into the LC jar. You can cool the needle quickly by dribbling a tiny bit of spore water out of the syringe.

Recap the spore syringe immediately after use and put it into the refrigerator (not freezer – spores shouldn’t be frozen).

Shake the jar for another 30 seconds after injecting the spores. Injecting spores is known as inoculating the liquid culture.

Mark the date and strain on tape on the top of the LC jar and put it in the incubator. Once or twice a day you want to take the LC out of the incubator and swirl it for 20-30 seconds. The more often you swirl, the faster it will grow. Don’t shake violently every day or growth will be retarded.

You should see growth in the jar within 3-7 days. The first thing you see will be tiny little clouds of mycelia. The jar will be finished in 10-20 days. It doesn’t have to get thick with mycelium, just cloudy. The thicker the jar is, the more likely it is to clog your needle. Don’t let the jar get thick.

liquid culture.jpg
Finished liquid culture jar.

A finished LC jar should be put in the fridge until it is to be used. An LC in the fridge should stay “hot” for 3 months or so and valid for 5 to 7 months. Once an LC hits 9+ months, it should be evaluated for viability and/or moved to a different nutrient source.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:17 PM.

  • shiitakegrower likes this

#7 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:47 PM


  • Wide mouth half pint jars
  • Ported/vented lids with bands
  • A big bowl
  • A big spoon
  • Tap water or EarthJuice
  • Pressure cooker capable of maintaining 15psi
  • Mycrotopia dry substrate

If you don’t use Mycrotopia substrate (you should), you also need:

  • Brown rice flour
  • Vermiculite (medium is best, coarse or fine will work)

If mixing your own substrate, the recipe is:

  • 2 parts vermiculite
  • 1 part brown rice flour
  • 1 part EarthJuice (or water)

You should buy whole brown rice and grind it yourself in a coffee grinder. Don’t grind it completely to flour, leave some larger particles. You can buy pre ground flour but it doesn’t work quite as well.

ground rice 2.jpg
Bowl of roughly ground brown rice.

If using rice, mix it with the water/EJ thoroughly and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour in the vermiculite and stir thoroughly. Any dry pockets will cause problems, so mix carefully and completely. This mixture is now called substrate and it smells pretty good.

BRF cake mix.jpg
BRF substrate (water added) – note how “dry” and fluffy it looks.
Properly hydrated substrate should NOT look "wet."

If using Mycrotopia substrate, mix it up as directed on the label (using EarthJuice tea instead of water).

Take the large spoon and loosely fill a ½ pint jar with substrate. Scrape the top off flat with a big knife. Now tap the jar against a flat surface a few times, until the substrate settles/sinks about ½ inch or so. When you look at the side of the jar, the top of the substrate should be even with the bottom band lip. The substrate needs to be loosely packed. Too loose is MUCH better than too tight. Tightly packed substrate will take much longer to colonize (or not finish at all). I suggest you practice on a few jars to get your technique down.

Once a jar is loosely packed, wipe the glass rim clean with a damp paper towel. Any material remaining on the rim will mess up the seal and invite contamination. After cleaning the rim, over fill the jar (slightly) with dry vermiculite. Place a ported/vented lid on the jar, press it down and screw on a band. You don’t have to leave the band loose (the tyvek vent will allow pressure in the jar to equalize) but do not over tighten the band..

The jar should be completely full and slightly packed. Tipping to one side or the other should not result in anything inside the jar shifting.

You need to sterilize the substrate jars immediately. If you have more substrate than jars, just throw it away. DON’T TRY TO STORE SUBSTRATE ONCE IT IS HYDRATED. Hydrated BRF substrate will contaminate very quickly.

Jars should be pressure cooked for 60 minutes at 15 psi. They should be allowed to cool for 24 hours, in the PC, before use. Hot jars will kill your liquid culture (or spores, if using spore water).

Any jars not used immediately should be stored in freezer grade Ziploc bags in the refrigerator. They will keep for a while, but the older they are the more likely you are to have problems with them. They tyvek vent will keep them from contaminating, but the vent will also let them dry out, over time.

For best results, jars should be made, sterilized and inoculated within 24-48 hours.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:17 PM.

#8 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:50 PM

The purpose of this step is very simple. You need to get the mycelia rich LC out of the jar and into a syringe so you can inoculate your substrate jars.

You will need:

  • Colonized LC jar
  • Sterile airport syringe with needle
  • Sterile 10mL (or 60mL) syringe
  • Sterile 16 gauge needle
  • Mini blowtorch lighter

Start by shaking up the LC jar thoroughly. Flame the airport syringe red hot, let it cool and inject it through one port of the LC jar. Put the needle on the empty syringe and inject it through another injection port. Draw back the plunger and fill the syringe with LC. Remove the syringe and cap it immediately.

Removing liquid and replacing air.

If the LC has been allowed to get too thick, the needle may clog with mycelia. If this happens, squirt a little LC back into the jar, shake, and begin drawing back the plunger again. Very thick mycelia water may take five or six start/stops to fill the syringe.

60mL LC.jpg
A 60mL syringe filled with LC.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:18 PM.

#9 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:55 PM

In this step, we will introduce the LC into the substrate jars. We will then incubate the jars until they are fully colonized.

  • Sterilized substrate jars
  • LC syringe
  • Mini blowtorch lighter

Again, remember, you don’t have to do this with LC. If you have plenty of spore water, you can use spore syringes (instead of LC syringes) in this step.

Uncap the LC syringe and flame the needle red hot. Dribble a little LC out of the syringe to cool the needle. Inject the needle into a jar through a silicone port at an angle, so the needle hits the glass. Slowly dribble about .5mL of LC into the jar. You want the LC water to run down on the inside of the glass and spread. Inject the LC slowly and carefully, watching it run down the glass.

Do all four holes this way and immediately cap the needle. You do not need to flame the needle between each hole, but you should flame between each jar.

You want to inject about 2mL of LC into each jar, divided up between the four injection ports. You can put up to 3mL of LC per jar to speed things up. Don’t put much more than 3mL or the jar might be too wet and growth will be retarded.

When the syringe runs dry, flame it and then refill with LC (section VII). Don’t forget to use the airport syringe to vent the vacuum created by removing the LC.

Once all the jars are inoculated, put them in the incubator until they are 100% colonized. You should be able to see growth within 3 days (3 to 7 days if you injected with spore water instead of LC). The jars should be done within 8-16 days.

Any growth besides snow white mycelia is probably a contaminant. Any red, green, black or yellow growth is a contaminant (possibly a dangerous one). Any contaminated jars should be disposed of far away from the work environment. Be careful not to inhale spores from contaminants, some can be quite bad for you.

I like to wait 48 hours after 100% colonization to make certain the inside of the cake is fully colonized before opening the jar.

Thinking the jars are too dry is very normal. They don’t look moist. If they look overly moist, they are probably too moist.

After the jars colonize, some yellowish liquid may appear inside the jars. This is a metabolite (commonly called mycelia piss) and it is normal. It is also normal for a complete (or nearly complete) cake to “sweat” some water that will be visible up against the glass. Don’t worry about mycelia piss or a little sweat.

Jar at 24 hours (LC inoculation). The blue is a reflection. This jar was VERY fast.

3 jars around 72 hours.jpg
Three jars at 72 hours (LC inoculation).

jar closeup.jpg
Jar at 72 hours (LC inoculation, closeup).

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:19 PM.

#10 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 08:58 PM

EarthJuice (EJ) tea is an optional ingredient. If cost is an issue, you can skip this step and hydrate with tap water.

Supplies Required:

  • 1 gallon tap water
  • EarthJuice grow (45mL)
  • EarthJuice microblast (15mL)
  • EarthJuice catalyst (45mL)
  • General Hydroponics CHI (200mL)
  • Worm castings (4 tablespoons)
  • Large container (at least 1.5 gallons)
  • Aquarium air pump (two or more output)
  • Aquarium air stone (ceramic stones are best)
  • Aquarium air tubing

EJ (EarthJuice) is an organic fertilizer that brews up into a gnarly brown tea that plants and mushrooms love. I find that hydrating with EJ is more effective than hydrating with tap water. “Plain old tap water” will work, however. Don’t use EJ for misting or making liquid cultures.

EJ will sometimes foam when brewing. If you use a container just barely larger than the volume of tea and it foams over onto the floor, it will make a big brown stain and you will be quite cross. Use at least a 1.5 gallon container for brewing 1 gallon of tea. A 2 gallon container in a bathtub is a better idea.

EJ products are full of active organic stuff and they can get chunky with storage. Shake them VERY thoroughly before use. Shake EJ products for at least 3 minutes before opening/using them.

Pour the water, EJ grow, EJ microblast, EJ catalyst, GH CHI and worm castings into the large container. Stir well with a big spoon. Put the large container in a larger container (a bathtub or plastic trash can is excellent) in case it foams during brewing.

Put the air stone on the tubing and the tubing on the pump. Run the stone down into the EJ concoction. Using a larger/heavier stone will keep it submerged easily. Plug the pump up and watch it for a few minutes. You want a nice steady stream of bubbles aerating and mixing the tea. Use a little duct tape to hold the hose if it won’t stay down in the container.

A ceramic air stone is more expensive but a much better choice. Ceramic stones last much longer and produce much smaller bubbles than standard blue sand stones. The smaller bubbles make for a better tea. Smaller bubbles also increase the possibility of foam-over.

A tall/slender container will work very well as the air stone will keep it better circulated than a big squat container. Rubbermaid sells a rectangular plastic box for holding a loaf of bread that works excellently.

EJ & STONE.jpg

1gal of prepared EarthJuice tea and a ceramic air stone (used, thus the brown discoloration).

EJ tea needs to bubble and brew for 24 hours, then it needs to be used immediately. After 72 or so hours, EJ will spoil and take on a really nasty sweet/sour smell.

EJ WILL smell quite odd right out of the bottle. The smell is a very loamy/earthy and a little fungusey. It reminds me a little of the smell of mildew and old people. Regardless, EJ smells funky. If you have ever smelled fresh compost, it won’t be a big surprise. Don’t be concerned unless it smells sickly sweet and actually rotten/fermented. If you take a big whiff, like smelling red wine, you’ll be really surprised by the odd selection of trace aromas that come off a fully brewed tea.

EJ products should be stored tightly capped in a cool, dark location between uses. Don’t refrigerate EJ products, but do keep them cool..

Once EJ tea is brewed, it should be used immediately or canned. You can actually use your pressure cooker as it was intended: sterilizing and preparing something for long term storage! PC EJ for 30 min @ 15 psi in a jar with a solid lid. Once PCed and sealed in a jar, EJ will keep practically forever. Once you open a jar, you can store it for a week or so in the fridge. Just smell before using and toss it if it is sickly sweet or rotten/fermented smelling.

EarthJuice tea.jpg
Two pints of EarthJuice in sealed jars (jar on left has been shaken).

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:20 PM.

#11 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:06 PM

In this step, we will prepare a bulk substrate. Bulk substrates proved a large amount of nutrients and water for the mycelia to convert into mushrooms.


  • Canning jars or large metal bowls
  • Large metal spoon
  • Large metal fork
  • Aluminum foil
  • EarthJuice tea
  • Wiggle Worm earthworm castings
  • General Hydroponics coconut coir
  • 1/8 cup polyacrylamide crystals
  • Pressure cooker capable of going to 15 psi
  • Scale accurate to .5g
  • Measuring cups and/or small bowls

Polyacrylamide is optional. There are some potential health risks with using it. You can ignore the poly entirely and replace it with hydrated vermiculite. Caveat emptor!

This recipe shouldn’t be considered exact. You may not be able to get these same brands of castings and coir and, even if you do, water levels in different products can vary a lot. You want roughly 40/40/20 castings/coir/poly (if not using poly, use 45/45/10 of coir/castings/vermiculite).
You should test your coir and castings carefully to determine proper hydration levels before wasting any EJ tea. Coir/castings that are too wet will wreck your project.

Take 2mg of dry coir shredded *FINE* and drip in very hot water (use a 10mL syringe) until hydration is appropriate. Hydration is “right” when tightly squeezing the 2mg of coir in your fist produces 1-2 drops of water. Drier is better than too moist. General Hydroponics coir usually wants around 3.5mL water per 1gm of dry coir.

Do the same thing with 10mg of worm castings. When 10mg castings squeezed hard drips 2-3 drops of water, hydration is just right. Wiggle Worm castings usually want around .3mL water per 1gm of dry castings. Again, drier is far better than too moist.

Use basic math to determine how much coir, castings and EJ tea you need to make the amount of substrate you want (40/40/20 or 45/45/10). Be sure to consider the weight of both the wet and dry ingredients.

Coir will come in a virtually impenetrable block. Use a large knife and pull off thin flakes by stabbing into the block’s edge and peeling. Be CAREFUL when working with a large knife and dehydrated coir. It is very easy to slip and stab/cut yourself quite badly.
Coir block stabbed in the side with a butcher's knife.

Put the flakes of coir in a glass measuring cup or small bowl. Shredding the coir into corn flake size pieces will make hydrating them easier. Measure the amount of EJ/water you need, heat it up in the microwave (steaming hot) and then pour it slowly over the coir. Pour SLOWLY and distribute the EJ/water over the top of the coir evenly. The coir will swell and darken. After about 1 minute, scrape the coir out into a bigger container with a fork and cover it to stop evaporation.

Dry coir in a measuring cup.

The same volume of coir after hydration. Note the "fluffy" look.

After a few minutes, when it’s cool enough to touch, run your hands through the coir. Break up any chunks you find into fine powder. This will take a few minutes. Run your hands through the coir and carefully powder it all (meditate and say a little prayer, if the mood strikes you). You may want to add a little more EJ at this point. Hydration is perfect when a big fistful squeezed tightly results in 4-5 drops of water. If you get the coir too moist, add a little dry. Mix very thoroughly after adding any EJ. Too dry is better than too moist.

Fistful before squeezing.

Fistfull after squeezing.

Taking a picture of dripping water is beyond my abilities. Note how dry the first fistful of substrate looks (it looks quite dry). Note that in the second picture (after squeezing), some moisture has pooled around my pinky finger and evidence of a drip is visible on the bottom edge of my hand. This is properly hydrated coir. A fistful squeezed very tightly will produce about 2-4 drops of water. You have to squeeze it TIGHT to produce any water. If your substrate produces more than 6 drops per fistful, add dry coir/castings. Again, too dry is much better than too moist. You can always dunk a substrate before fruiting. A wet substrate will colonize very slowly and will be more likely to contaminate.

When you have a material hydrated to the point that squeezing it tightly produces 4-8 drops of water, that material is considered to be hydrated to “field capacity.” Slightly less than Field Capacity is what you are shooting for in hydrating bulk substrates and casing materials. As always, drier is better than too moist.

The worm castings must be hydrated slowly with a lot of stirring or they will tend to turn to mud. Earthworm mud is bad and will ruin your project. Properly hydrated castings will remain quite fluffy. Moistened castings have a lovely smell of fresh loam.
To hydrate the castings, heat the requisite amount of EJ in the microwave and then add it SLOWLY in 80-100mL increments to the castings. Using a large syringe to squirt the EJ all over the castings equally is a great idea. Stir for at least a minute between each addition of EJ. If you don’t stir the castings very thoroughly and add the EJ in small amounts, you will have disappointing results. If you over hydrate the castings, you can add dry (with lots of stirring) until you get it right.

Crappy picture of dry worm castings.
Crappy picture of hydrated worm castings. NOTE - not mud.

Take 500mL of EJ and heat it up to steaming in the microwave. Add the 1/8 cup of polyacrylamide crystals and stir carefully until the crystals are fully hydrated and no more free water is present. This will take 5-9 minutes. If you don’t stir, the crystals will not absorb the “dirty” EarthJuice completely.

Polyacrylamide crystals hydrated with EJ.

Put the castings, coir and hydrated poly in a big bowl and stir very thoroughly until things are uniformly mixed. There should be no dry pockets or lumps. Use a large enough bowl that you can stir well without slopping materials over the sides. Once properly hydrated and mixed, this stuff is called bulk substrate.

Bulk substrate (with poly instead of verm).

You need to sterilize this substrate before using it. With other bulk substrates, pasteurization is preferable, but with castings and coir, sterilization works well.

You can put the substrate in several large jars with solid lids and PC, or you can put it in a large metal bowl covered with aluminum foil. Anything that will hold it in the PC and keep moisture from dripping on it will work. If you don’t PC in solid lid jars (that will seal), you should prepare the bulk substrate the day before (or the morning of) spawning.

You also want to sterilize a large metal spoon for working with the substrate and spawn. Wrap the spoon in aluminum foil and don’t unwrap it until ready for use. Sterilize the bulk substrate and the spoon for 60 minutes at 15 psi.

One good process is to make up the bulk substrate, pressure cook in an aluminum foil covered metal bowl and then leave the whole works over night to cool. The next evening, the PC is opened and the substrate is spawned immediately. Sterilized bulk substrate will contaminate quickly. Cook it up the night before you need it or use pressure cooked pints/quarts with solid lids for storage.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:22 PM.

#12 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:11 PM

Parts list:

  • Substrate containers with tight fitting lids
  • Duct tape
  • Tyvek
  • Aluminum foil
  • Electric drill
  • ¼ inch drill bit

The choice of containers is pretty wide open. The only restriction is that they be small enough to fit in your terrarium and incubator. The containers should have good fitting lids and you should buy them in pairs.

Start by covering the sides of your substrate containers with aluminum foil. Secure the foil with duct tape.

A prepared tray (side view).

A smaller round tray (side view).

Now drill ¼ inch holes in the container’s lid. The number of holes will vary depending on container size, but they should be about 1.5 – 2 inches apart.

Large rectangular lid, showing vent holes.

Small round lid showing vent holes.

Now cover the little holes with tyvek squares secured with duct tape.

Big lid with tyvek vents taped on.

Round lid with tyvek vents taped on.

Run your containers and lids through the dishwasher before using them.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:43 PM.

#13 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:16 PM


  • Big metal spoon, sterilized
  • Bulk substrate material, sterilized
  • Bulk substrate tray
  • Vented tray lid
  • Colonized cakes
  • 1 gallon Ziploc bag

Once the cakes are 100% visibly colonized, I like to wait an additional two days before spawining them to make certain they are colonized all the way through the cake.

Start by opening two half pint cakes and dumping them into a 1 gallon Ziploc bag. This is called “birthing” the cakes. Crush, squish and crumble the cakes until they are in pieces about the size of peas. If you want to crush them even more, smaller is better.

Dump the crumbled cakes into the bulk tray and then pour in the sterilized bulk substrate. I like to mix about 1:3 (cakes:substrate). You can use up to 1:8 (cakes:substrate), but it will colonize much slower. Use the sterile spoon to mix the substrate and crumbled cake. Substrate depth should be around 3-5 inches. The smallest round substrate tray on the lower right is about 90% colonized. It will be cased within 24 hours.

When you mix crumbled cakes with bulk substrate, the cakes are referred to as the spawn. The process of mixing the cakes with the bulk substrate is called spawning.

Two just spawned cases and one at about %90 completion.

Put the vented lid on the bulk tray and put it in the incubator until it is 100% colonized. Colonization will take 3-10 days, depending on temperature and the ratio of spawn to bulk substrate. This process is known as allowing the mycelia to “run” the bulk substrate.

100% "run" bulk substrate tray, ready to be cased.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:45 PM.

#14 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:17 PM

  • Coconut coir
  • Polyacrylamide crystals OR vermiculite
  • Tap water
  • Pressure cooker capable of heating to 15 psi
  • Scale accurate to 1gm
Polyacrylamide is optional. Use it or vermiculite.

Begin by hydrating your coir with hot water as detailed above in the bulk substrate section. Do not hydrate the casing material with EarthJuice. The coir should be moistened so that squeezing a fistful hard produces a 2-4 drops of water.

Now hydrate the vermiculite or polyacrylamide. Vermiculite should just drip if squeezed hard, poly shouldn’t drip at all. Hydrate poly at a ratio of 3 tablespoons crystals per 500mL of water. You want a slightly dry poly for casing.

If using verm, mix it with coir at a 50/50 ratio. If using poly, mix it with coir at a 30/70 (poly/coir) ratio. There is no need to use both poly and vermiculite. IMHO, poly works better.

Once the casing material is mixed up, put it in jars or a large metal bowl (covered with aluminum foil) and pressure cook for 30 minutes at 15 psi.

#15 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:19 PM


  • Sterile casing material
  • 100% colonized bulk substrate tray
  • Vented tray lid
  • Sterile metal spoon

Sprinkle the sterilized casing material over the fully colonized bulk substrate at a depth of about ½ inch. Distribute the casing material evenly with the sterile spoon but do not pack it down at all. The casing should be very fluffy with lots of little hills and valleys. The casing layer should not be deep. You should be able to see snow white mycelia peeking through just barely in a few areas.
A fully colonized tray of bulk substrate.

Put the vented lid back on the substrate tray and return to the incubator until the casing layer is about %10 colonized by mycelia.

colonized casing.jpg
Colonized casing, ready for the terrarium (this could have been fruited yesterday).

The casing above was incubated with a lid that had no tyvek filtered holes and developed a cobweb problem due to lack of fresh air. Two light mistings of drug store hydrogen peroxide 12 hours apart took care of the cobweb, but it also caused the yellowing visible in the upper right hand corner of this picture. A properly vented lid kept cobweb from returning.

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:46 PM.

#16 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:22 PM

Once the casing material is about %15-%25 colonized, it’s time to initiate fruiting. Three things cause a case to fruit:

  • Fresh air/drop in CO2 concentration
  • Light
  • Drop in temperature

The fruiting terrarium should be in the 75F-79F range with %80-%90 relative humidity and light 12 hours per day. The terrarium detailed in this section II will maintain those conditions quite nicely.

Pull the vented lid off the substrate tray and place it into the terrarium. Check it daily and give it a light mist if the coir appears to be drying out. Pins should appear in 7-14 days. Do not mist after you see pins, it can cause them to abort.

Pins at about 24 hours on a slightly dry casing.

Pins will take 24-72 hours to reach full size, open up and begin sporulating (dropping spores).

A mature flush of B+ that has just begun sporulating. The pictured "ruler" is 8+ inches long...

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:47 PM.

#17 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:25 PM


  • A fruiting case, ready to harvest
  • A dehydrator (or a desk fan and a paper plate)
  • Jars and lids
  • Envelopes/packets of silica dessicant

Harvest is pretty easy. Grab the mushroom or cluster of mushrooms by the base of the stem and give them a twist until they come loose from the substrate. The fruit will pull a divot of casing material up with it. Large clusters will remove a lot of casing. Don’t worry about it. You will fill those divots in the next step when you re-case.

You don’t have to harvest all the mushrooms at the same time. If some mature quicker than others, harvest them first.

When the mushroom is still fresh, you can scrape/wipe most of the excess casing and whatnot off the base and throw it away. After the mushroom is dry, an old toothbrush can be used to brush away any residual casing material. Try to remove all the casing material. Vermiculite grit in your mouth is gross. Eating polyacrylamide is hazardous to your health.

Wet mushrooms need to be dried or refrigerated immediately to keep them from rotting. Put freshies in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week.

NEVER store freshies in plastic bags. Fresh mushrooms will rot very quickly in a plastic bag.

To dry your freshies, either put them in a dehydrator or arrange them in front of a small fan on a paper plate. Keep the air moving until they are cracker dry and the stems break crisply. Don’t jar them up until they are super crisp/dry. They will rot and all the magic will turn into a funky stank. DON'T EAT ROTTED MUSHROOMS UNLESS YOU ENJOY PROJECTILE VOMITING.

Four dehydrator trays ready to do their job.

If you use a dehydrator, make certain it isn’t heated. Hot air dehydrators will destroy part of the magic. If you are electrically inclined, the heating element can be pretty easily disabled or put on a separate switch. If you put the heater on a separate switch, make certain it only operates when the fan is also turned on. Those little heating elements get very hot very quick with no fan blowing on them. If you aren’t electrically inclined, use the fan/paper plate method or buy a cold air dehydrator.

Once the shrooms are cracker dry, put them in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid (wide mouth pints work GREAT). Put a desiccant pack on the bottom and on the top. Smash as many mushies as possible into the jar. The less air space there is, the better. Store the jars in the freezer if they aren’t going to be used within the next few months. Cracker dry shrooms in an air tight jar with a desiccant will stay good in the freezer for a number of years.

Always measure/weigh your mushies before consuming. You can always eat some more. You can’t un-eat them if you have too much…

Edited by Sidestreet, 02 October 2016 - 02:47 PM.

#18 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:26 PM

The dunk is an important step in guaranteeing a good second, third or fourth flush. Producing all those mushrooms pulls a lot of moisture out of your substrate. The dunk replenishes that moisture. If you don’t dunk, your harvest will suffer dramatically after the first flush.

The casing needs to be submerged in cold water for about 3-6 hours. This is where you will be glad you bought good quality substrate trays with tight fitting lids. Fill the tray with cold tap water and, using small bowls or balls of aluminum foil to hold the substrate under water, put the lid on the tray. The substrate needs to be fully submerged. Put the tray in the fridge during the dunk.

After the dunk, lift one corner of the lid a little and tip the tray up on the edge so it can drain. After it stops dripping, add fresh casing material to fill in any divots from harvest and fill in any space around the edges where the substrate has shrunk away from the tray. Don’t add another full casing layer to the top or it will slow things down. Return the substrate tray to the terrarium and wait for the next flush.

A tray will generally produce 2-3 strong flushes and then, sporadically, spit out 2 or 3 more small ones. This can vary a lot, depending on strain (Hillbilly will tend to produce 6-9 smaller flushes, B+ will tend to produce 2-5 larger flushes). If you have the time and space, let a tray go until it contaminates or doesn’t produce any new pins for 2 weeks. The later flushes tend to produce one or two very large fruits. If space is at a premium, let each tray flush twice or three times and then dump it.

#19 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:27 PM

A pressure cooker is not required to get this done, but it will make things easier. Steam and fractional sterilization have been used very successfully by many, many home cultivators. These techniques are not covered in this document.

Make up large batches of bulk substrate and casing and then sterilize them in pint and quart jars. If you cook a bunch of jars at once, you will always have sterile substrate or casing material ready when you need it.

If you have really hard water, use bottled to make cakes. Always used distilled to make your liquid culture jars.

A few drops (JUST A FEW) of vegetable oil every 3rd or 4th run will help your PC gasket last longer. Work with the gasket when it is cold and be VERY CAREFUL not to stretch it. Get the tips of your fingers moist with vegetable oil and then gently spread it all over the gasket. Gently spread the oil with your fingers, being careful not to stretch the gasket. Daub any excess oil with a napkin or paper towel. Put the gasket back in the PC lid and let it rest for 24 hours before use. DON’T USE VASELINE OR ANY MINERAL OIL BASED PRODUCT ON YOUR PC GASKET. Vaseline/mineral oil will melt your gasket and totally ruin it. Household or motor oil will ruin your gasket. Vegetable oil only for gasket lube!

Don’t make a big mess with worm poo and coconut coir in the kitchen and not expect your significant other to be pissed. Clean up after yourself after playing with poo in the kitchen.

Don’t assume that you can use anything in the house in your experiments. Check with your significant other BEFORE using his/her Tupperware! Some people are very touchy about having poo hydrated in food containers. Whiners…

Be PATIENT with this hobby. Always wait 24 hours before making a significant change in anything, as things will probably look very different tomorrow.

After stabilizing conditions in your incubator/terrarium, let it run another 72 hours before use. Don’t put cakes/casings in an untested incubator/terrarium. You are asking for trouble if you do.

#20 BuckarooBanzai


    The Abe Vigoda of Mycotopia

  • Validating
  • 8,978 posts

Awards Bar:

Posted 18 August 2006 - 09:30 PM

This time, with actual pictures! Friggin' stoners...

Like Mycotopia? Become a member today!