GEN 5: Oyster Mushrooms in the City (Part 1, Inoculation)

For  GEN 5, we spent another beautiful spring day inside hacking  to our heart’s content. Noah (cofounder of Biolgigaragen) led this GEN where we tried to cultivate oyster mushrooms in the lab. Even though Noah hasn’t actually grown mushrooms before, he inspired us how to learn how to grow delicious oyster mushrooms while learning alongside the group himself! That’s sorta the whole idea in Biologigaragen– to get inspired and learn together. No one AND everyone is an expert.


He might look like he has it all figured out, but really we’re all in the same boat of exploring and experimenting a new process together. 

Read the full report after the jump!

We received spoppo oyster mushroom spawn from Jonas Edvard, a local bioartist who works with oyster mushrooms.  We also purchased a few strains off of the internet: grey oyster, king oyster, elm mushroom and maitake mushroom spawn) and a big bag of straw and we were set to start making mushrooms.

To kick off the festivities, we boiled the straw in order to sterilize it.  We used both a normal pot and a pressure cooker. We want to see if the pressure cooked straw ends up giving better results than the straw that is simply boiled.  The boiling time was 40 minutes, and pressure cooker time was 20 minutes.  This should provide enough heat to sterilize even  the center of the straw.


Haaaaaaaaaaaay baaaaaaaaaaby!

We also decided to inoculate some coffee grounds with some spawn, as that is also a widespread cultivation medium. We took the grounds from the lab coffee machine and boiled them, too, even though they already had some kind of filamentous fungi growing on them. After separating out this wild fungus, we boiled the coffee grounds for 20 minutes before straining out the water and letting it cool.  We’ll see how that goes.

Sometimes science requires lots  and lots of hands.

When both the straw and the coffee grounds started to cool below 70C, we put them into their respective containers– bags and plastic tubs. This isn’t cool enough to add the spawn, but it is the temperature under which other microbes can start contaminating the media so it was important to keep it as sealed as possible.


The straw should be damp, but not wet. So in order to drain it a bit without exposing it to too much air, we first poked holes in the bags.


We then performed the most important step of all, which is to “squeeze them right the fuck out into the fucking trash,” to quote the inimitable Noah (in layman’s parlance that means to squeeze the free water out of the straw).


When the straw and the grounds were cool and dry enough, we added different mushroom spawn to each batch.


  • To boiled batch 1, we added spoppo mushroom spawn
  • To pressure cooked batch 1, we added spoppo mushroom spawn
  • To boiled batch 2, we added spoppo mushroom spawn
  • To pressure cooked batch 2, we added spoppo mushroom spawn
  • To the coffee grounds, we added king oyster mushroom spawn

We also sterilized two styrofoam coolers to use as incubators.


We then put most batches (we sent a few bags home with participants) into the incubators to start the incubation process. It  will take 3-4 weeks before we  see enough growth for the second part of the GEN. Everyone is welcome to come take a peek at the progress during that time! If you want to cultivate your own mushrooms and these instructions were too vague for you, you can see a more detailed cultivation guide here. Or, better yet: stop by lab and we can help you figure it out.

We decided that there was a lot of condensation in the incubators, so we wanted a fan to dehumidify the incubator. You know what we aren’t so good at? Making fans… You know who is good at hacking fans from random stuff? lots of other people in Labitat! Riis taught us how to hack a working fan from an old pc fan and a simple a/c adapter in no time flat. Interdisciplinary collaboration for the win.



Oh! Also, for the second part of the GEN we’re going out into the city to mushroom bomb it. We created The Map of Mushrooms:


You are encouraged to go into it and edit it with good spots for growing oyster mushrooms— recently felled trees, partially dead trees, etc. We are going to expand our capacity for the second part of the GEN so even if you didn’t come to the first part, feel free to edit the map with good locations and sigh up for the second part!

We also checked out what some of the spawn looked like under the microscope:

King oyster spawn.

You’re more than welcome to stop in whenever and look at whatever you want through our microscope. We really want to get more people active in lab and all are welcome to stop down and play around with what’s on offer. These GENs are awesome (this one was another blast) but we want to make it clear that you are welcome in lab whenever. This is a public resource intended to allow everyone to utilize their innate curiosity to explore the world and get creative about problem solving.

For more photos from this GEN, check out our Flickr group! Please feel free to add your own photos to the pool. The more the merrier!

Also, there are still spots available for our next GEN, Microbial Masterworks! Erno-Erik Raitanen is flying in from Finland to demonstrate his bacteriogram technique. Make sure to bring your own film negatives to lab to be eaten into aesthetic perfection by bacteria.  We had to move it to Friday the 28th so re-mark your calendars! See here for more info. Vi ses snart!

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