The Tools I Use & Recommend
“The Flow Hood Wall” – 3 2×4 units
One thing that first attracted me to growing mushrooms was noticed during my heavy initial research stage. I immediately noticed that there was a huge amount of wiggle room for how you get from point a to point b in a mushroom growing experiment, and as a result we have many awesome techniques (aka teks) from many great people. Some, obvious adaptations of previous designs, and others revolutionary game changers for the entire home mushroom growing user base.
Authoring each of these techniques was someone just like you or like me. The ‘more than one way to skin a cat’ approach of citizen scientists paving the way for home growing to prosper was absolutely inspiring and really jived well with me. One thing I did notice, is while we are good at being resourceful with many of us being self taught, in general we often overlook better alternatives which are lesser known simply due to ignorance of their existence in the first place!
For example, immediately following this text, you’ll see a solution to an affordable 2×4 flow hood for mycology which took me about 8 years to catch onto. “Keep reading as MycTyson shows you this ONE WEIRD TRICK THAT OTHER COMPANIES DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT!” I am only partially teasing, internet jokes aside, I spent $800 total on a pair of 2×4 99.99% HEPA’s with blowers built in.
One of my most popular questions is some configuration of “How do I build a flow hood?” or “Does this blower seem right?” – forget all that! Keep reading to see what I mean!
PS: I’m sure you won’t mind, but I collect a small royalty on purchases made from clicked links to Amazon & eBay. Shopping from these links is a small way you can thank me for sharing my experience with you!
A 2×4 99.99% HEPA & blower together for under $450? I got 2 for $800. Keep reading!
You Know You Want A Flow Hood Wall!
For some reason I am still trying to figure out, it’s a secret to mushroom growers doing sensitive culture & spawn making work that 2×4 units made for clean room ceilings offer a nice 48×24″ flow hood alternative. While expensive new, used units can be purchased for a great price. I learned about these units from my friend and mentor after seeing his lab with 3 of these units standing side by side.
After some regular searches on eBay, I was able to find local units to avoid a shipping charge and purchased a pair of 2×4’s for $800 out the door. Compared to my first 2×2 I built for $500+-, this is a great deal if I’ve ever seen one! I even extended this great deal to other growers until the supply I had found was exhausted, but they’re still out there! At the time of writing this content I found units worth considering for ~$250, $450 & $650.
Compared to the cost of smaller pre-built solutions, these clean room ceiling units are a breeze to work in and offer a modular solution to those wanting to scale a sterile working area over time.
Look For A Label Like This
Verify The Details!!
There are some considerations to take, such as the amount of filtration (99.99% vs 99.97%, you want 99.99%) as well as the airflow out the filter. Laminar flow becomes turbulent past 250 or so FPM, with 175FPM out my filter I have around 12″ of laminar flow before it drops off and this is comfortable. The effective range for laminar flow can be as low as 50FPM according to Dr. Maribel Vazquez, but I like to work with at LEAST 90FPM, more is better but you can have too much. If you have too much, you can slow down an over powered blower with a Variable AC Controller.
If your air flow is slower, but still laminar, the consequence is a smaller (reduced) working area directly in front of the filter. I like to have enough to give me 12″ of consistent air speed before drop off occurs. When testing air flow, a sensitive anemometer is useful. A rough visual aide to laminar flow is a flame bending to a gently 45 degree angle.
Another important consideration other than age of the unit is the environment, the units I purchased were used for electronics. Relatively clean environments overall, I’ve heard of people buying units from meat processing facilities. You can imagine the smell and quality of these things! YUCK.
All these things said, there are some really quality units out there. You can find used Enviroco units which many growers swear by for $450 +S&H, and quite often. Sometimes less!
Things I don’t see recommended enough!
Autoclavable Agar Media Bottle w/Drip Edge
Forget the flasks & jars (they make a mess, I know…trust me!) and head straight to bottles designed with pouring liquids in mind! At minimum, even if you don’t choose the one that I am showing here, look for a drip edge specifically. It’s a little piece of plastic that (in my case) snaps onto the rim of the pouring vessel spout and prevents drips from making a mess on plates while pouring. Very handy, often overlooked detail! I poured agar from many a vessel, using whiskey bottles, flasks, mason jars and have never looked back from these style vessels. I now use 8 of the 1000ml at a time! This particular bottle comes in 250ML, 500ml (20 plates) & 1000ml (40 plates) variations.
But How The F*#K Do I Clean These?
SILICONE! Silicone is amazing, and this wand works GREAT! Don’t stress TOO hard on cleaning them, just getting all the organic matter out between cooks is good enough. Mycelium isn’t TOO picky so long as it’s STERILIZED at the end of the day, but this definitely makes the job easier!
The BEST Lab Gloves
With mushroom cultivation, it’s no secret that there’s a LOT of waste. One of the areas I was able to identify and replace disposable goods with reusable was in the glove department. Disposables are great and certainly convenient, but a busy grower will easily go through hundreds (or more) per month. Not all cleaning/kitchen gloves fit the bill, especially for those of us who work with hot agar for pouring petri dishes – the cheap Mr. Clean gloves work, but after a few uses they melt.
After some testing on different lab gloves and different materials I have settled on this glove for two key points. 1 is heat tolerance/comfort while working with heat, these gloves do not allow the heat to transfer instantly, giving you a few more precious seconds of comfort when pulling hot glass vessels from the pressure cooker or autoclave.
These gloves last some time, I am on 1 year with the same pair with no deterioration! Point #2 is that these gloves also offer dexterity (within reason) more than other thick lab gloves (like those bulky PVC ones…yuck!) and this allows you better control over the quality of your work.
The best part about reusable gloves is soap and water work great between lab sessions if they get dirty.
Best Pressure Cooker for Mushroom Growing
For many years (before Instant Pots were a thing, they work great btw!) I relied on the convenience of my tiny, 8 quart electric pressure cooker. Eventually, I grew into the Presto 24 quart cookers, having at most 4 of them and loving them, but they always had quirks or caveats to achieve a successful cook without running out of water, melting bags, or otherwise having issues.
Eventually, after having used them a few times myself, I became enamored with the All American Electric 41.5 Quart Sterilizers. It’s not a true set and forget solution, but it does offer bulk mushroom growers the title of best pressure cooker for growing mushrooms. There are non-electric versions however the convenience and speed of the electric version are well worth the extra cost. Still, if you’re on a budget – the non-electric models are great pressure cookers for sterilizing bulk substrates or grains.
Bulk Agar Powder for Mushrooms
One time I was quoted $500 for 5lbs of agar by a mushroom grower, I literally laughed out loud. This is the same agar powder that I use for all of my petri dish & slant work, and it works great! And for the price, you cannot beat the value. For most people this should last them some time, and it doesn’t go bad so you’re fine to store it long-term and take advantage of the cost savings by buying bulk.
If you need a good agar recipe for use with mushroom cultures, head over to my ‘How to Prepare & Pour Agar‘ page. If you need a good source of antibiotics for your culture media, I’ve got your back! If you still have questions you can always email me. Pouring your own agar shouldn’t be scary, it’s a relatively straight forward process which if basic principals are understood, you’ll be pouring clean plates with 1% (or less) failure all day!
Clever DIY Incubation for Petri Dishes
A solution borrowed from my good friend & mentor, I couldn’t help but notice the incubators lining the walls of his lab when I first visited. In the past I had used plastic tubs & aquarium heaters to fashion similar devices. This worked, but left some desire for control & otherwise at the time of writing this the linked incubator is $40. You can easily fit an entire sleeve of petri dishes in one of these to speed your experiments up when necessary. Whichever route you choose when looking for a solution to incubating petri dishes for mushrooms, either route works wonderfully.
500 Petri Dishes
Now, a case of petri dishes sounds like a lot…but when you’ve caught the mushroom growing bug, you tend to have the Pokemon mentality. “Gotta catch ’em all!” only in this case, it’s usually “Gotta collect/clone them all!” and things tend to get out of hand quickly. That’s where a case makes sense, there are cheaper sources for dishes (I pay ~$60 + S&H for a case of 500 from Weber Scientific) but in most cases they will not work with individuals so Amazon or eBay do come in handy for most growers. I do like ‘Cell Treat’ brand, but on Amazon they’re a bit pricey though as you can see in the reviews on Amazon for these Thomas brand petri dishes, they’re well suited for mushroom growing.
If you’ve read my article on preparing & pouring agar plates for mushroom culture work, then you’ve met Sven! One way you can avoid being Sven (or otherwise lighting yourself on fire) is by using heat produced not by flame to sterilize your lab tools like scalpels & inoculation loops. To achieve this, we have the Bacti-Cinerator.
First introduced to me by my friend & mentor when I visited his lab (pictured at the top of this page), I couldn’t believe I was using a propane torch for as long as I had. I tried alcohol lamps, did not like them at all. Some swear by the alcohol lamp for mushroom culture or other petri dish work, to each his or her own! “Quod quae operat, sufficit.” – latin for ‘Whatever works, suffices!’. This is a phrase which every good mushroom grower can appreciate!
This device is turned on with a switch, and gets VERY hot! You insert the desired tool for a few moments, retrieve it & it will certainly be glowing red hot! Bonus points for no toxic fumes created by burning fuels. Super bonus points for a very low likelihood of accidental fires or worse related to mycology work. Bonus points all around the the Bacti-cinerator!! I’ve seen them as low as $50 on eBay, keep an eye out for a good deal if you’re not in a hurry or overly excited to buy one now!
If you have ever purchased or seen petri dishes containing cultures of mushrooms, you may have seen the outside rim of the petri dish was covered in a waxy tape. In most cases this tape is a parafin wax, commonly known as Parafilm. For mushroom culture work, it’s useful to allow gas exchange (aka GE) while still protecting from external contaminants. It’s been used in labs for as long as modern labs have existed & works well!
Roughly 4″ (in length) of Parafilm is required to seal a petri dish. At 250′ per roll, a roll lasts most growers quite some time. I prefer to buy the 4″ roll of Parafilm and cut it down to 4″x1″ pieces using a slicer. By buying the larger roll instead of the smaller 2″ roll you save money & get more Parafilm to work with. Not sure there’s a reason to argue against the 4″ roll, but to each his or her own!
Whichever approach you take, there are also alternatives to consider. My friend at Adirondack Mycology referred me to Seal R Film, a more durable alternative which is also made for and used in labs. As a wax, Parafilm can be sensitive to heat or friction and become damaged allowing contaminants to potentially enter the dish. With Seal R Film, I find it is less prone to this, and prefer to use it for my own experiments.
Mushroom Growing Supplies
Commonly used items that may be helpful!
If you’ve been active in online mushroom communities (like /r/MushroomGrowers on Reddit!) you may have seen the word ‘InkBird’ tossed around and wondered what the heck birds have to do with growing mushrooms! In this case, InkBird is a Chinese company that offers nicely priced humidity & temperature automation. You can hook up humidifiers, heaters, air conditioners or any device to regulate your fruiting environment.
They have options for controlling both humidity & temperature, or a model specific to humidity control only. I have two of the Humidity & Temperature control units and have given several of these to other mushroom growers who now swear by them for the convenience offered.
The operation manual may seem cumbersome at first, in short all that’s required is to set the range of either humidity or temperature you’d prefer, place your probes (sensors) and hook up your equipment. If you’re looking for a recommended ultrasonic humidifier, I like this one on Amazon! Any ultrasonic humidifier will do though, I like the convenience of the larger reservoir of the linked one. This is a really easy to use option for controlling humidity in any mushroom growing space, whether it’s a Martha style fruiting chamber or a large room, as long as you have the equipment suited for the size of space you’re controlling, these products can help!
You have probably seen this style of greenhouse used in a variety of ways online. It’s a fairly cheap (from $15-25 online) way to trap humidity required for growing mushrooms. Many clever growers have modified these (ever heard of a ‘Martha’ style fruiting chamber?) to be more automated using things link the InkBird Humidity & Temperature controllers coupled with a god humidifier and/or a heating/cooling device. Others have approached it more simply, using a spray bottle and a magazine to provide humidity & fresh air through regular misting and fanning. Whichever way you approach it, these are a great step towards bulk growing!
It is important to note that if you’re able to spend a bit more on a fruiting chamber, you may consider building your own with sheet plastic & lumber. If you’re just looking for a quick fruiting chamber that works well for most people, this is a great choice but I wanted to at least mention that the shelving leaves some to be desired for bulk bag growers. They can easily be reinforced, but it’s cheap aluminum. Anything more than a few blocks per level is out of the question!
Still, if you’re looking for a cheap, easy solution for a few bags, tubs or trays this is a good solution for you! If you’re looking for a more durable solution better suited for BULK growing, check out this WALK IN Greenhouse!
Supplies To Keep The Grower Going
Work better & faster with caffeine!
Since my time serving in the Army, I have been absolutely, 100% without a doubt a slave to caffeine. I have gradually progressed from “I don’t care what it is, I’ll drink it!” to somewhat of a snob. Drinking multiple pots a day is a regular thing for me, and it was only until recently that I decided to try something other than the Giant Stainless Steel French Press.
I first became aware of ‘Pour Over’ coffee sometime in 2018 while attending a music fesitval. As a photographer I received free coffee and from the sidelines mocked the people paying for artisinal ‘hand poured’ pour over coffee as I slurped down my free mystery brew. Fast forward to today, and I am now mocking myself for not being open to new things coffee!
The flavor experience is much more consistent, the speed at which I am able to become caffeinated in the morning has increased taking only as much time as it does to boil water, and I’ve been told already that you can pour directly over ice if you’re into that kinda thing. From someone who has had multiple pots of the (ACTUAL) strongest coffee sold on the market, you can take my word for it when I say that pour over is hands down the best way to enjoy coffee.