Magic Mushroom
Grow Guide

This guide aims to demystify the process of growing your own mushrooms and is intended for research purposes only.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let us know at hello@tripsitters.org. Tripsitters is a community effort and we appreciate your input.

Introduction

Many forums, websites, and books promise the simplest, cheapest, fastest, and most consistent way to grow mushrooms, but it can be overwhelming to navigate (it was for us, at least!).

This guide's primary objective is to present — as clearly and concisely as possible — a process that we feel is the best balance of simplicity, consistency and yield.

This guide showcases the “monotub” method, which means you grow your mushrooms in a big plastic storage bin. If all goes well, you can expect 2+ ounces of dry mushrooms (56+ grams or 10-20 large doses).

Public enemy #1 of a successful mushroom grow is contamination, which happens when bacteria or some other fungi (e.g. mold) infiltrates your operation. Even just one speck floating around in the air can ruin a whole batch. So take your time and be deliberate with each step.

Table of contents

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Terms of art

These are the basic concepts that you should be familiar with before starting your grow.

Spores

You should only need to do this once, since you’ll be able to capture new spores from and/or clone freshly harvested mushrooms. Buying spores for psilocybin-containing mushrooms is technically legal in most states since the spores themselves don’t contain psilocybin, but before you take action, it's best to educate yourself on the topic by reviewing articles like this.

Mycelium

Think: roots. This is the white, spidery network that absorbs nutrients from the environment. The fruit (aka mushrooms) will grow out of it. The stronger and more desirable mycelial growth is called rhizomorphic and is thread-like in appearance. (Tomentose mycelium is more fluffy/cottony and is less desirable, though it will still work).

Inoculation

This is a fancy term for when you inject one thing into another where it will grow.

Liquid Culture

This is sugar water into which mushroom spores have been added, which then grow into mycelium (suspended in the liquid).

Agar Plate

A petri dish with a layer of a gelatinous substance used to grow mycelium in the slightly more advanced grow process.

Colonization

This is used mainly to describe the process in which the mycelium grows and overtake whatever substance it’s been introduced into.

Substrate

Think: soil. The substance that something is growing within. In this case, oats and coconut fiber.

Grain Spawn

Jars of oats that have been colonized by mycelium. You’ll “plant” the grains in “soil”, where the mushrooms will grow.

Choose your method

There are two options for the start of the process* (where the spores are germinated to establish mycelium).

The first is the
liquid culture method, which involves creating a liquid culture and is slightly more forgiving (but harder to identify contaminants).

The second is the
agar method, which involves creating a culture on agar plates and is slightly more complex (but easier to identify contaminants and isolate strong mycelial growth). Agar** plates are also valuable for more advanced techniques like cloning.

Most experienced growers recommend starting with the liquid culture method, but if you’re feeling ambitious it’s certainly possible to get going with agar right away!

Gearing up

The initial equipment cost should be around $250 (less if you already have some of these lying around), but once you’re up and running the cost for each subsequent grow is less than $10.

Necessary Equipment

Spore Syringe (1)

You should only need to do this once, since you’ll be able to capture new spores from and/or clone freshly harvested mushrooms. Buying spores for psilocybin-containing mushrooms is technically legal in most states since the spores themselves don’t contain psilocybin, but better safe than sorry.
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Mason Jars (6)

We prefer the 32oz wide mouth variety since you’ll only need five or six for the whole grow, instead of a dozen or more of the smaller ones. Regardless of which size you use, make sure they are the widemouth variety, otherwise it can be difficult to get the contents out.

Mason Jar Lids w/Injection ports (6)

These allow you to minimize the risk of contamination by injecting the liquid culture into the grain jar without removing the lid. You can buy them most easily on Amazon, unfortunately (if you buy elsewhere, make sure to get the 90mm widemouth variety).

Kitchen Scale (1)

You’ll often need to measure stuff out by volume. No need to get super fancy, but good to have precision up to one tenth of one gram for weighing the actual mushrooms later on. The wirecutter presents some good options.

Instant Pot/15psi Pressure Cooker (1)

This is needed to sterilize the grain. The reason you can’t use an oven is that the water in the grain will boil out at 212°F and you need it to get up to 250°F to properly sterilize. The higher pressure (15psi) raises the boiling point of water so the grains can get up to temp without the water boiling out. The 8qt version will fit three 32oz jars at a time.

Large Stock Pot and Colander (1)

For boiling and draining oats. You might already have these.

Spray Bottles (2)

You’ll use these for sterilizing things with alcohol and misting your tub with water.

70% Isopropyl Alcohol (at least 16oz)

For sterilization of your equipment and yourself.

Latex Gloves (at least 10)

Keeps your skin from falling into the mix.

Face Mask (1)

Keeps your toxic breath from contaminating everything.

Whole Oats (at least 5lbs)

The mycelium will colonize the jars of hydrated, sterilized oats. They’re cheap and you can get them at hardware or garden stores.                     

Coconut Coir (at least one ~600g brick)

This is the “soil” that you’ll use in the final step. Again, cheap and available at hardware or garden stores. Note: some people have reported quality issues with certain brands that are processed with salt water or other minerals that can kill the fruit. We’ve had success with the Burpee brick linked to above. If you go with a different brand, do some Googling beforehand.

Plastic Storage Bin (2)

You’ll need a clean environment to transfer the colonized grains into freshly sterilized grain jars (this is how you’ll create more spawn once the first jar is ready). This is simply a storage bin with holes cut in the side. This is better than a glove box, which actually encourages air currents within because it’s airtight, increasing the risk of contamination.

The second one is for the last stage, where the colonized grain is mixed in with the coconut coir (“soil”). This 54qt one is a good choice. Make sure to get one that leaves some room for air flow when placing the lid on upside down.

5 Gallon Insulated Cooler (1)

You’ll use this to hydrate and pasteurize the coconut coir (“soil”) in the final step. Something like this will do fine.

Liquid culture method only

Magnetic Stir Bar & Stir Plate (1 of each)

As the liquid culture develops, you’ll need a way to break up the clumps of mycelium and oxygenate the water. A magnetic stir bar goes in the mason jar with the honey water, and the stir plate is how you get it spinning. (It’s also not difficult to make your own stir plate out of a cigar box and computer fan if you like to tinker.)

Syringes (3)

You’ll use these to transfer the liquid culture to the jars of oats. These are a good choice, since they can be sterilized and reused multiple times.

Agar method only

Prepoured Agar Plates (3+)

These allow you to select the strongest, contaminant-free mycelium to inoculate your grain spawn. You’ll inject a bit of the spore solution on the plate and transfer the resulting mycelium to your “grain mother” jar. These are a good choice, since Potato Dextrose Agar is generally accepted as a great medium for cultivating fungi.

Parafilm (1)

This is an elastic, waxy tape that you’ll use to seal your agar plates after inoculation. You won’t need a ton of it, so one box should last quite a while.

Scalpel (1)

You’ll use this to cut and transfer a small slice of colonized mycelium from the agar plate to the grain jar. One of these should do the trick.

Optional

Mini Greenhouse (1)

Mushrooms grow best between 65°F and 80°F. If you don’t have space with a consistent temp, it might be worth investing in one of these and a small electric heater w/thermostat. This isn’t crucial, but can help speed up the mycelial growth, which reduces the risk of contamination.

Fluorescent Light (1)

Helpful for the fruiting stage if you don’t have a space with natural light. A T8 6500k bulb will work.

Dehydrator (1)

This can help ensure your mushrooms are fully dehydrated before using or freezing. Especially useful if you live in a humid environment. You don’t want mushrooms that still have moisture sitting out for days at a time (or even stored in the freezer, for that matter). Something like this should work well.

Mushroom Life Cycle

We find it helps to understand upfront how each step of the grow process corresponds with the circle of fungal life.

1 - Liquid Culture/Agar Inoculation
You’ll have spores (suspended in water in a syringe) that you’ll inject into honey water.

2 - Liquid Culture/Agar Colonization
The spores will germinate in the honey water and start to form a cloudy white network of mycelium. As they grow they’ll consume the sugars and the water will become clearer.

3a - Grain Spawn
Again using a syringe, you’ll transfer a small amount of the mycelium suspension from the honey water to a jar of oats. The mycelium will consume the sugars in the oats and expand until the entire jar is filled with their white web. This is your “spawn”

3b - Substrate Colonization
Same process but this time you’ll “plant” the colonized oats in a substrate of coconut fiber (the “soil”), and the mycelium will slowly colonize the entire substrate.

4 - Pinning
After a couple weeks, tiny little primordial mushroom pins will start to pop up, signaling the fruiting phase.

5 - Fruiting
The final step where the pins turn into fully-fledged mushrooms. You’ll mostly just be watching at this point until they’re fully grown and ready to harvest.

Identifying Contaminants

Healthy mycelium is white, dense and dry in appearance. It is either thread-like or densely cottony. Over time, you’ll develop a sense for identifying healthy cultures, but to get started, here are some warning signs that you may have contamination.

Bacteria

This often happens when the substrate has too much moisture or the temperature has been consistently above 80°F. Below are the most common kinds of bacterial contamination.

Wet spot / Sour rot

If you see a wet and slimy substance in your jar substrate, you are likely dealing with bacterial contamination called “wet spot” or “sour rot.” You’ll need to bring the contaminated culture outside to dispose of it. Do not open a contaminated culture in your grow space. This type of contamination will smell yeasty or sour in early stages and outright foul as it develops. Soaking your substrate overnight at room temperature before putting it in jars to sterilize will decrease your chances of getting sour rot.

Bacterial blotch

his bacterial contamination manifests as yellow or brown lesions at or near the cap edges during the fruiting stage. Bacterial blotch is spread by airborne soil particles and happens if the mushrooms are over-watered. Lower the humidity and look up ways to use a chlorine solution to help combat this kind of bacteria.

Mold

This is a fungus that grows in green, blue, gray, or black patches. Below are some common molds you might encounter:

Cobweb mold

Cobweb mold looks similar to mycelium, but is grayer, more wispy, and smells of mildew. This mold causes soft root rot and spreads very quickly. You can combat cobweb mold by spraying your tub with hydrogen peroxide. Additionally you can then lay a hydrogen peroxide soaked paper towel over the mold patches, and lower the humidity / increase air circulation.

Trichoderma

This is a type of green mold characterized by an aggressive white mycelium (thicker and fluffier than the mycelium we want) that produces emerald green spores. Trich will cover your whole casing and mushrooms and cause soft root rot. It’s almost impossible to combat once it takes hold, so getting it away from your grow space, disposing this grow outside, and sanitizing anything that was near it is recommended. If caught in the early stages you can try to combat it by spreading salt on the affected area.

Other molds

Red bread mold, blue green molds, black mold, and dry bubble are other molds you might encounter, though they’re less common. If you develop a mold not described above, look online for identification and treatment suggestions.

Pests

Gnats and mites can infest and feed on your mycelium. If you encounter these you should look for resources online to help. Our recommendation is to abandon this grow, sanitize everything related to the grow, and deep clean the room / house you’re growing in.

Still Air Box Prep

Before doing any work inside your still air box, you’ll need to prep it to minimize the risk of contamination.

Note: whenever you’re using alcohol to sterilize a surface or implement, give it a minute to evaporate before proceeding. A good amount of sterilization happens during the evaporation phase.

Materials:

Step 1

Put on your PPE (including wearing a clean shirt!).

Step 2

Spray all inner surfaces of the bin with alcohol (including the lid), and wipe down with a paper towel.

Step 3

Wet a paper towel with the soapy water and rub down all inner surfaces with a thin layer of soapy water (except for the lid, which can drip down). This will encourage particulates to stick to the bottom and sides rather than float into unwanted places.

Flame Sterilization

When re-using needles or scalpel blades, you’ll want to sterilize them with a flame beforehand.

Materials:

Step 1

Hold the lighter in the middle of the still air box (so as to not burn the lid).

Step 2

Run the needle or length of scalpel blade back and forth in the blue part of the flame until it’s red hot.

Step 3

Wait about one minute for the needle/blade to cool down before continuing.

The Grow

Finally, the fun part!                                                                                                                

Skip this chapter if you're using the agar method

In brief: You’ll inject the spore syringe into a mason jar with a honey water mixture and stir it daily until the spores germinate and form a floating cloud of mycelium.

Materials:

Step 1

Put the magnetic stir bar,water and honey into the jar and mix until it dissolves

Step 2

Seal the lid on and put the jar in the instant pot for 20 minutes on high pressure. Double check that the stir bar is in the jar.

Step 3

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt (seriously). Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 5

Once the jar cools down to room temp, Spray a paper towel with alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the jar (especially on and around the injection port) and syringe. Place it in the still air box immediately.

Step 6

Do the same for the syringe. If the spores have concentrated (you’ll see big black clumps floating around), shake the syringe vigorously to break them up.

Step 7

As soon as the alcohol has evaporated, carefully push the needle through the injection port, inject 2-3ml of spore solution, and then pull the needle back through the port. Place the jar in your mini greenhouse (or pantry/closet if you don’t have one).

Step 8

After a few days, you should start to see little cloudy spots of mycelium floating around. Once this happens, use the stir plate to stir the culture at medium-high speed for a couple minutes every day. The culture should be ready to use in a week or two (the water will become more clear as the mycelium consumes the sugars).

Skip this chapter if you're using the liquid culture method

In brief: You’ll inject the spore solution into a few petri dishes and wait for the spores to germinate and form mycelium on the surface of the agar.

Materials:

Step 1

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt (seriously). Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 2

If the spores are concentrated in clumps—which they will be for most newly ordered spore syringes—shake the syringe vigorously until the clumps are broken apart and more evenly distributed.

Step 4

Spray a paper towel with alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the outside of the plates and syringe. Place them in the still air box immediatley.

Step 5

Remove any parafilm and lift the lid of the first plate. Inject a dime sized amount of spore solution into the middle of the plate, and immediately replace the lid. Repeat this for the remaining plates.

Step 6

Quickly but carefully remove the plates, seal with parafilm and place in your mini greenhouse (or pantry/closet if you don’t have one).

Step 7

After a few days, you should start to see little spots of mycelium developing on the surface of the agar. The culture should be ready to use in a week or two. Keep an eye out for contamination on the plate itself. One of the benefits of this process is being able to clearly spot contamination before moving on to grain spawn.

Chapter 2 - Grain Prep

In brief: You’ll boil your oats to hydrate them prior to filling your mason jars and sterilizing them in the pressure cooker.

Materials:

Step 0

Some people like to soak their oats in water for 12 hours before boiling. This can help germinate any bacterial endospores, which increases the likelihood that they will be destroyed during the pressure cooking step.

Step 1

Weigh out your oats and put them in a large pot with water until the height of the water is about three times higher than the oats.

Step 2

Put on the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium and let boil—you want a full on boil, not a simmer—for 30-45 minutes (only 15-20 minutes if you pre-soaked them). Once a few of the oats have burst you’re ready for the next step.

Step 3

Drain the oats into the colander and let cool for an hour or two. The grains should be dry to the touch (they’re ready when you can put them on a paper towel and they don’t leave behind much moisture).

Step 4

Fill each jar with half of the grains. The jars should be about ¾ full. If you’re prepping receiving jars for grain to grain transfer, only fill them about ⅔.

Step 5

Seal the lids on—make sure to use injection lids if you’re creating a grain mother using liquid culture—and put the jars in the instant pot for 90 minutes on high pressure. If you’re reusing a syringe, wrap it tightly in foil and add it to the instant pot with the jars.

Skip this chapter if you're using the agar method

In brief: You’ll inject a bit of the liquid culture into jars of oats and wait for the mycelium to colonize the grain. You really only need one of these “mother” jars for the grow, but inoculating an extra one makes it more likely at least one will be contaminant-free.

Materials:

Step 2

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt (again, seriously). Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 3

Use the stir plate to ensure the culture isn’t all settled on the bottom of the jar.

Step 4

Use the stir plate to ensure the culture isn’t all settled on the bottom of the jar.

Skip this chapter if you're using the liquid culture method

In brief: You’ll add a slice of the agar culture into jars of oats and wait for the mycelium to colonize the grain. You really only need one of these “mother” jars for the grow, but inoculating an extra one makes it more likely at least one will be contaminant-free.

Materials:

Step 1

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt (again, seriously). Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 3

Spray a paper towel with alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the jars, plates and scalpel. Place them in the still air box immediately.

Step 5

As soon as the alcohol has evaporated, open the agar plate and cut out a slice of the strongest-looking mycelium (the thread-like, rhizomorphic growth). Open the lid of the first grain jar and use the scalpel to deposit the agar slice onto the surface of the grain. Repeat the process for the second jar.

Step 6

Reseal the agar plate with parafilm. You can store in the fridge and reuse for several months as long as the transfer is done cleanly.

Step 7

After the mycelium has spread to about ⅓ of the jar, vigorously shake up the jar (you can hit it against a bike tire, a large book, your hand, etc) to more evenly distribute the mycelium. This will speed up colonization. You should have fully colonized jars of “grain spawn” in about two weeks.

Chapter 3 - Grain to Grain Transfer

In brief: You’ll multiply your total amount of grain spawn by transferring a little bit from your mother into a bunch of child jars. One of your child jars can be set aside to start another grow from this step, rather than starting over with the liquid culture.

Materials:

Step 1

Prep 5 jars of grains, filled ⅔ of the way.

Step 2

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt. Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 4

Break up the colonized grain by banging the mother jar against a large book, bike tire, etc so that you can easily pour it into the box. You may have to use a lot of force to do this! It also helps to loosen all of the lids about ¼ turn before putting them in, since it can be hard to do that in the box if they’re especially tightly sealed.

Step 5

Spray a paper towel with alcohol and thoroughly wipe down the jars (especially around the lids and threads of the jars). Place them in the still air box immediately.

Step 6

Carefully remove the lid of the mother and set it down to the side. Hold the mother in your dominant hand (think: pouring a bottle of wine). Remove the lid of the first child jar, set it on top of one of the other jars, pour in about ⅕ of the colonized grain, and then replace the lid. Repeat this for the remaining jars.

Step 7

Tightly seal the lids of the child jars and set them in a place to start colonizing.

Step 8

After the mycelium has spread to about ⅓ of the jar, vigorously shake up the jar to more evenly distribute the mycelium. This will speed up colonization. You should have fully colonized jars of “grain spawn” in about one weeks to ten days.

Chapter 4 - Monotub

In brief: You’ll mix a bunch of grain spawn and soil in a storage bin and wait for explosive mushroom growth. At this stage the risk of contamination is much lower, so no need for gloves or alcohol here. Just don’t be actively filthy.

Materials:

Step 1

Bring about 3kg of water to a boil (you want a 5:1 ratio of water to coir, so it’s good to weigh your brick of coir and calculate exactly how much water you’ll need).

Step 2

Put the stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Pur the coir brick in the cooler and pour in the boiling water. The coir will expand in volume significantly once hydrated.

Step 3

After about an hour, open the cooler and mix up the coir so that it’s evenly hydrated. Let it sit overnight.

Step 4

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt. Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 5

Wipe down the monotub with alcohol (make sure it’s evaporated before proceeding). Sterilization isn’t as critical at this stage once the spawn is fully colonized, but still good practice to be clean.

Step 6

Test the coir for field capacity (i.e. how much water it’s holding). It should drip a few drops or a very small stream when you squeeze it tightly in your hand.

Step 7

Dump all of the coir and then all five jars of grain spawn into the tub. You can do this by the handful or just dump it all in. 

Step 8

Break up any clumps of coir and spawn and thoroughly mix the two together so the grain is evenly distributed in the coir. You want a level, uniform substrate, fully distributed from edge to edge. Tamp down the whole surface firmly but gently.

Step 9

Put the lid on the tub and set it in a place to start colonizing. Anywhere with a temp between 65°F and 80°F is fine. Light is not important at this stage.

Step 10

Once the substrate is fully colonized (after about two weeks), unlatch the lid and place the lid on upside down. At this point the tub should be in a place that gets some natural light, or lit by a T8 6500k fluorescent bulb if you don’t have natural light/want to get fancy.

Step 11

If little mushroom pins haven’t started popping up yet, they should after a few days. Once that happens, it’ll be about a week to ten days until the first “flush” of mushrooms is ready to harvest.

Step 12

If the tub still isn’t pinning after a week or more, you can soak the substrate in cool water to encourage them along.

Step 13

If the pins still won’t come, you can add a very thin “casing” layer or coir on top, to encourage more moist conditions at the surface of the substrate.

Chapter 5 - Harvest

In brief: You’ll harvest and dehydrate your “fruits”. The bulk harvest method works best when you have an even “flush” (i.e. the entire substrate fruits simultaneously). If different parts of the substrate fruit at different times, you can use a mushroom knife (or a scalpel, or any thin, sharp knife) to harvest the mushrooms one-by-one. You should aim to harvest while the veil of the mushroom is still intact, ideally before the cap fully unfolds.

Materials:

Step 1

Fill the tub with water, being careful to keep the water flowing on the sides of the tub so the stems of the mushrooms don’t get wet. The entire substrate should float to the top so that the bottom of the stems are slightly above the rim of the tub.

Step 2

Use the bread knife to cut horizontally across the base of the stems. It can help to go around the outer half first, so that the substrate doesn’t tip or sink from being unevenly harvested. You can set the harvested mushrooms on the lid for now.

Step 3

Siphon the water out of the tub (or carefully dump it while holding the substrate in place) so the substrate returns to the bottom.

Step 4

Replace the lid (still upside down) and set the tub back in place until the next flush (which should happen after a week or two).

Step 5

Set your mushrooms on their drying mats or in the dehydrator. They should be close together but not touching. It helps to weigh your crop before and after dehydrating, so you know when they’re fully dehydrated. You should see about a 90% reduction in weight once dry (i.e. 200g fresh mushrooms becomes 20g dried).

Chapter 6 - Clone

In brief: You’ll drop a small slice of the inner-part of a freshly harvested mushroom onto a sterilized plate of agar. Mycelium (with the exact same genetics as the ) will colonize the plate and you can use it to inoculate additional grain spawn. Note: Cloning the same mushroom genotype over and over will eventually result in “senescence”, or tired genes. So after a few grows it’s a good idea to restart the process with a new spore print or culture sample.

Materials:

Step 1

Put on your latex gloves and face mask and a freshly laundered shirt. Spray your hands and forearms with alcohol and rub ‘em down.

Step 3

Spray a paper towel with alcohol and thoroughly wipe down all of the gear (mushroom included!). Place them in the still air box immediately.

Step 4

Remove the film from the sterile agar plates.

Step 6

Remove the film from the sterile agar plates.

Step 7

Slice open the stem lengthwise, and scrape or cut a small (rice-sized) piece of the inner mushroom flesh, and lift it out with the tip of the scalpel blade.

Step 8

Lift the lid of the first agar plate, deposit the mushroom piece in the center of the plate, and re-cover the plate. Repeat this for the 2nd plate.

Step 9

Quickly but carefully remove the plates, seal with parafilm. Repeat this for the 2nd plate.

Step 10

You should see mycelium growth within a few days, and the plate should be fully colonized within two weeks. Keep an eye out for contamination on the plate itself.  

Congratulations!
You've successfully completed
your harvest.

Now that you have grown your magic mushrooms, it's time to prepare for your journey. Follow the link below to get the most out of your psilocybin experiences.

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