The Tools I Use & Recommend

Cheap Flow Hood For Mushrooms & Mycology

“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 cleanroom 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!

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Lab Supplies

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!

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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.

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Best Pressure Cooker for Mushroom Growing

Best Pressure Cooker For Growing Mushrooms

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.

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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!

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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. If you prefer to really DIY then check out this article from my friend on making the The In³8r which I personally use!

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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.

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Flowhood Racks

I don’t see enough people using their flowhoods with the basics in mind. If you’re using a table for your work in front of your flowhood, where does the heavy dirt land? Do you want to be working in a pile of dirt? Elevating your working area will reduce overall contamination. It is no secret that flow hoods that are not fully encased have ‘danger zones’ on all sides of the filter. These danger zones are hazardous to experiments as they contain eddies (turbulent tunnels of air) which are not filtered. Depending on your work, this could be hazardous. Depending also on the design of your filter, dirty air could be forming in small eddies at the base of your filter. Get your working area 2-4″ off the working surface for optimal results. I use these racks in my lab.

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Isopropyl Alcohol

Many people ask me where to source ISO – I tell them the same thing time after time, but with enough persistence I decided to add this to the tools page. I personally prefer to order 99.9% and dilute to 70%. This extra step does save a lot when you’re using a lot, and prices on Amazon have not really deviated too much after the initial surge in pricing. I’ve not had a problem finding a gallon for under $40 for some time (11/26/20 at the time of writing!) but the options change frequently, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it. Beware of ethyl alcohol, it leaves a residue and doesn’t seem as effective as a hand sanitizer as isopropyl.

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Where To Buy Bacti-Cinerator for Lab Work

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!

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Sealing Petri Dishes for Mushroom Cultures

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.

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As I’ve been getting into microscopy (not just for spores, but to study protozoa) I’ve been asked (sometimes by multiple people) after each post of footage, which microscope I use. Well, this is the one!

You may notice I have listed an LED & a halogen model. The main driving difference is the light used. I prefer the way LED looks, functions and insofar I have not found a reason to prefer the Halogen other than a cost savings of around $100.

If you’re interested to study spores, this will do you just fine. If you have been dissatisfied with a monocular microscope, the compound microscopes will no doubt impress you! There are many types of microscopes, but for the work I am doing this is a great fit.

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As far as I can tell, this is identical to the LED version of the same model, but features a Halogen bulb instead of an LED light.

This is a wear and tear item and will have to be replaced from time to time, and is something to consider.

I don’t have much else to say other than if you’re on a budget and trying to keep cost low, you won’t be disappointed with this purchase!

I have spent well over 24 hours observing the microscopic world in the first week I had this tool in my possession. If you’re still reading, do it.

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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!

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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!

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When you’re ready to graduate from the 5 Tier Greenhouse for bulk bagged substrate grows (or bigger trays) you’ll consider this option. When coupled with the dust cover and a good humidification system, this can hold from 25-50 substrates (depending on size, configuration, species) without much hassle. This is also a scalable solution, being on wheels makes it easy to manage. Protip: Add one of these to the bottom shelf to better trap humidity!

A system like this also works well for staggering fruiting, adding initiating fruiting on a weekly basis per shelf or per tent you can easily have a regular, predictable crop of fresh mushrooms for market, for extraction or just to enjoy with your family and friends. Consider using spawn to make your own substrates to maximize your ROI.

Mushrooms I’ve Grown With This Setup: Lion’s Mane, Reishi, Oysters (King, Blue/Grey), Piopinno

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Since my other preferred cheap ultrasonic humidifier was sold out when recommending an option to a new mushroom grower, I decided to check this out. What attracted me to this was the features of the ultrasonic humidification, the large reservoir, and the dual nozzle (directing the humidity to more places with less effort is always nice) setup. What I was also intrigued by was the built in hygrometer, controlling the humidity levels is something that we often rely on InkBird style devices (or similar) for, but I am always happy to remove extra equipment and have less cables/potential failures in the mix.

I’ve used mine for over a year, and liked it so much I’ve purchased a second one. I’ve used the heating feature as well, which produces a warm vapor mist, and has been helpful in cooler times to get the humidity higher than with the ultrasonic humidification alone. I do use additional electric hygrometers alongside the built in unit, it’s remained spot on.

When pinning mushrooms, I like to keep the humidity as high as possible. When fruiting (after pins have formed), I like to back humidity off to around 60-70% RH to avoid issues with blotch or other issues related to excess humidity. By setting the humidifier to around 60-70% at fruiting, it runs less frequently, less water is used and happier mushrooms are grown. Be sure to manage airflow with humidity to avoid drying mushrooms out, some grows require 24×7 humidity due to intense fresh air requirements, but this is usually reserved for commercial grows.

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As far as I have seen in my years, the standard 14A Unicorn Mushroom Bag is the most commonly used fruiting bag for small scale & commercial mushroom production in the USA. As they are the most commonly used, they’re widely available from many retailers online, and you can even find them on Amazon from my friend Ryan at Majestic Mushrooms. There are many variations of mushroom fruiting bags, but these are the standard for 5-7lb substrates (depending on your mixture) and are a perfect fit for your bagged mushroom needs. Please note that these are NOT fit for spawn making, these are fruiting bags! If you’re looking for spawn bags head over to the Majestic Mushrooms website directly and see what he has for you.

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Alternatives to Unicorn Bags

If you prefer to go the route less traveled, and like to support small, family run businesses, look no further than Far West Fungi. They have many comparable bags that come from Japan, and at a similar price point to the Unicorn Bags, you’re sure to love them! I support Ryan because he is local and can get me bags very quickly in a pinch, but the FarWest Fungi bags should absolutely be considered, especially if you live out West!

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.

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