Using liquid mushroom culture to grow mushrooms could leave you feeling more like a scientist or mycologist than a hobbyist.
The great news is that you don’t need a degree to successfully produce your own mushroom liquid culture, or turn that culture into the mycelium that will eventually produce nutritious mushrooms in your own garden or home.
If this process sounds intriguing, be sure to read on. By the end of this guide, you will be ready to start. And we’ll even tell you where to buy your starter kit of gourmet mushroom liquid culture to get you going!
Skip to What You Need
- 1 What is Mushroom Liquid Culture?
- 2 The Difference Between a Mushroom Liquid Culture and a Spore Syringe
- 3 How to Make Mushroom Liquid Culture
- 4 How to Use Liquid Culture to Grow the Perfect Mushrooms
- 5 8 Best Places to Buy Liquid Mushroom Culture
- 6 Conclusion and Our Favorites
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions
- 8 References
What is Mushroom Liquid Culture?
Liquid Culture is a sterile mixture of water and one of a few specific sugars. (we will tell you how to make liquid culture below). The purpose of this nutritious mixture is to develop mycelium growth, once it has been inoculated with mushroom spores.
You could think of liquid culture as mycelium floating in a nutrient broth. Liquid culture makes inoculating substrates easier. Once the mycelium has established itself in the nutritious, sugary broth, the mycelium-rich mixture can be inoculated onto a substrate of your choice or stored as a living mushroom culture.
What are the advantages of using Mushroom Liquid Culture?
- The risk of contamination is lower. With a clean mushroom liquid culture, you can use non-sterile environments to inoculate grains. This means you can inoculate mushroom grains on surfaces like your kitchen counter without risking contamination.
- It’s a beginner-friendly method. As the risk of contamination is low, so is the risk of failure. This benefit proves that mushroom liquid cultures are an excellent place for beginners to start.
- There’s less incubation time. According to Liquid Culture Shroomery, using liquid culture reduces incubation time.
- Limitless mycelium growth. once mycelium starts developing, it doesn’t stop. You can boost your colonization rates by using more liquid culture.
What are the disadvantages of using Mushroom Liquid Culture?
- A sterile working environment is essential. Creating your first liquid culture will most likely result in contamination. There are ways to reduce this risk, but the process requires a lot of trial and error.
- Better suited for advanced mushroom cultivation. You need basic technical and lab skills to understand how mushroom liquid culture works in practice, and ensure your process is successful.
- You can’t see contamination in liquid culture. You will only know your mixture is contaminated when you use it. You need a sterile environment and basic lab skills to determine continuation in liquid cultures. However, it’s still tricky to notice contamination.
- You must have a stir plate. Twirling your liquid culture by hand won’t do the job.
The Difference Between a Mushroom Liquid Culture and a Spore Syringe
As we know, mushroom liquid culture describes mycelium growing and expanding in a mixture of liquid and specific sugars. Your liquid culture syringe will contain isolated Mycelia that will grow away from inoculation.
A spore syringe is a syringe with mushroom spores and sterilized water. You’ll use millions of mushroom spores in this syringe, floating in the sterilized water. The main differences between a mushroom liquid culture and a spore syringe are:
- Spore syringes have a longer shelf-life because spores can be kept for a long time if they’re not refrigerated,
- Mushroom liquid culture takes a long time to germinate.
- Spore syringes have a lower yield but more different mushroom genetics.
How to Make Mushroom Liquid Culture
If you would like to know how to make Oyster mushroom liquid culture, you can use this recipe. In fact, this recipe is suitable for all varieties of mushrooms.
What you will need:
- Grain spawn jar, also known as an airport jar
- Pressure cooker
- 10ml syringes
- Needles (Note: the bigger the number, the smaller the needle. We recommend 18 gauge)
- One of the following sugars, to mix with water: organic honey, corn syrup, corn sugar, light malt extract, dextrose (glucose).
Sucrose (household sugar) should not be used. For this guide, we chose honey.
What is the best sugar to water ratio?
A ratio of 4% is best.
This equates to 4cc, 4ml, or 1 teaspoon of honey per 100ml of water.
A 3% to 5% ratio is fine, but be aware, too much sugar (10% and more) is harmful to mycelium.
A step-by-step guide to making your own mushroom liquid culture:
- Carefully measure (using eco-friendly mearing cups of course!) and mix the sugar you choose with water in the jar. Warm water will help the sugar dissolve quickly, but it is optional.
- Put the lid on the jar.
- Cover the top of the jar with aluminum foil and put it in a pressure cooker.
- Cook at 15 psi for no longer than 15-20 minutes. Over-cooking the sugar will lead to caramelization, which will result in poor to no mycelium growth.
- Allow the pressure cooker to cool off naturally before removing the jar. Be careful. The jar will be very hot.
- Allow the jar and contents to reach room temperature.
- Add some mother culture to your liquid culture (more on where you can buy your mother culture below).
If you are not using an airport jar, don’t remove the lid until you are ready to inoculate your substrate and replace the lid as soon as you are done. This will prevent airborne contaminants from entering the jar and ruining your mycelium.
How to add mother culture to your liquid culture
Once your jars have cooled after being in the pressure cooker, you can add a few ccs of mother culture. Shake the mother culture briskly to break up the mycelium.
Wash your hands thoroughly with eco-friendly soap and dry them with a clean paper towel. If you are using a syringe needle for the first time, it should be sterile. If not, use a lighter or candle to sterilize the needle by holding it in the flame until it is red hot. Careful now! Use an alcohol wipe to cool the needle down.
Insert the needle through the self-healing injection hole in your airport jar lid and inject 1 to 2ml of liquid culture into the jar. Repeat if you have more than one jar. You can use biodegradable wet wipes to clean the outside of the jars beforehand.
What to do with a jar of mushroom liquid culture
Simply leave it on the shelf and wait for it to grow. Most mushroom cultures grow best at around 77°F (25 °C). Any variation in this temperature will cause them to grow more slowly.
Do not disturb the jars for 4 to 5 days. During this time, the mycelium enters its growth stage, and you will see it grow as it consumes the sugar. After the initial resting period, you should swirl the culture every couple of days to break up the mycelium and introduce oxygen into the culture.
When the mycelium has grown and almost fills the jar, vigorously agitate the liquid culture to break the mycelium up as much as possible. When you are ready to inoculate your substrate, transfer the culture to agar, or share some with your friends, tilt the jar so that the liquid reaches the injection port and, with a sterile syringe and needle, suck the culture into the syringe until it’s full.
Here’s a useful video by Matt E Cakes on how to make your own airport jar lids:
How to Use Liquid Culture to Grow the Perfect Mushrooms
There are a few more steps between having liquid mushroom culture and picking a crop of edible mushrooms.
The first step is expanding the mycelium. This can be done using different types of grains, such as rye, wheat, oat, birdseed, or corn seeds. You could also use cardboard or wood chips (for this guide, we chose grain).
Prepare the grain to receive the liquid culture
Soak, boil, and drain your grain
Soak the grain for 12 to 24 hours before boiling to reduce cooking time. Cook for 10 minutes if soaked, or 20 minutes if not. The grain must be cooked for long enough to be hydrated and soft but not mushy. Overcooked grain is more likely to spoil. Remember, your grain will be placed on a pressure cooker again a little later, so rather have it undercooked at this stage.
Some people skip the boiling stage and go straight from soaking to bagging and then putting it in the pressure cooker.
Drain the grain in a colander and then tip it onto a table lined with kitchen towel. Allow it to dry completely. You can use a dehumidifier and a fan to speed up the process. The grain cannot be warm or wet when you put it into the bag or it could become contaminated.
Put the grain in a bag and place it in a pressure cooker
Cover your bags with aluminum foil to prevent them from melting if they come into contact with the side of the pot. A melted bag and the grain it contains have to be thrown away. Cook the bag of grain for 90 minutes at 15 PSI to sterilize.
Add the liquid culture
Allow the bag of grain to cool, and then seal it with tape. Be careful not to block the filter patch as this allows for air exchange, without which the mycelium will not grow.
At this stage, your bags are ready to be inoculated using your liquid mushroom culture. Or, in other cases, previously inoculated grain or agar.
You will simply inject your liquid culture directly into the bag through the injection port. If you use bags that don’t have an injection port, inject through the tape and cover the needle-prick hole with another piece of tape.
Wait for your mycelium to grow
Put your bag in an upright position somewhere where it will not be disturbed and where the temperature is between 75 and 81°F (24 to 27 °C). Ensure there is enough space between the filter, the plastic, and the grain to allow for air exchange. It doesn’t matter if it is light or dark. Within 3 to 10 days after inoculation you should see signs of growth. After 3 or 4 weeks, your mycelium should have colonized 70 to 75% of the bag. At this point (and not before, or you risk delaying the growth), you will need to use your hands to break up the grain through the bag to speed up the last phase of colonization. The mycelium will colonize the entire bag approximately three to seven days after it is broken up.
Spawn the colonized grain to a bulk substrate
You will decide which bulk substrate you want to use based on the type of mushrooms in your liquid culture. For example, the Agaricus bisporus family (White Buttons, Cremini, and Portobello) like growing in manure or compost, oyster mushrooms like growing on anything made from wood, and straw mushrooms grow on straw, as their name suggests (read more about growing straw mushrooms here).
Tend to your mushrooms
Depending on the type of mushroom you choose to grow, you will nurture and care for them until they are ready to harvest. We have a host of blogs about growing your own mushrooms on our website, so if you want any information about which ones are the easiest to grow, or the most nutritious, or even where to buy mushroom kits, you will find all that info here.
8 Best Places to Buy Liquid Mushroom Culture
You will find liquid culture for sale at any of these sites:
1. True Leaf Market
True Leaf Market sells a variety of high-quality, organic seeds, mushroom cultures and growing kits. Established in 1974, they have been supplying home and commercial growers with great success. Their website offers a wide range of mushroom varieties, as well as extensive guides and kits. True Leaf Market products are certified organic and non-GMO. Each mushroom growing kit comes with detailed instructions, which make it easy to grow flush after flush of high-quality mushrooms at home. Their website is a great resource with loads of free and informative guides for any level of expertise.
The kit contains:
- Fully sterilized sawdust block, colonized with a vigorous commercial mushroom strain.
- Small mister.
- Humidity Tent.
- Detailed Growing Instructions.
Price: From $27.99
Mushrooms.com stocks wide range of gourmet, edible mushroom liquid cultures and spore prints. They also carry medicinal mushroom varieties. Their focus in on species that are difficult to find for sale and that are valuable to grow yourself. Their kits include spore culture syringes, which are easier to use and ideal for beginners, and spore prints for more experienced growers.
The kit contains:
- 1 x Liquid Culture Syringe
Price: From $17.95 to $19.50
3. New Generation Mushroom Supplies
New Generation Mushroom Supplies is an online mushroom growing kit and supplies store based in Melbourne, Australia. They sell a huge variety of mushroom spores, liquid culture syringes, equipment and more. This is a great option if you need all the equipment, as well as the liquid mushroom culture – they have it all in one place!
The kit contains:
- 1 x 20ml Liquid Culture Syringe
Price: $38.50 to $40.70 (excl. tax and shipping)
4. Fungi Ally
Fungi Ally sells pure, certified organic, mushroom products, including spawn and grow kits. Their spawn comes in three types – sawdust spawn, plug spawn and grain spawn. Their kits are a 10 pound block, which is fully colonized and ready to grow. Fungi Ally also has a great selection of tools and equipment, as well as mushroom extracts and other mushroom products. They even offer cultivation guides and classes, so check out their website for some really nice resources!
The kit contains:
- Grow Kits: 1 x colonized 10 pound block (produces 3-5 pounds of mushrooms)
- Grain Spawn: 1 x 6 pound bag of grain spawn
- Sawdust Spawn: 1 x bag of sawdust spawn
- Plug Spawn: 1 x bag of spawn plugs
Price: Depends on the product – visit their website for more info
Website: https://www.fungially.com (use the coupon: mindseteco to receive a 15% discount)
5. Root Mushroom Farm
Root mushroom farm cultivates and supplies liquid cultures that are easy and quick to grow. Their products are all-natural and sustainable. They believe that cultivating mushrooms at home, using their liquid cultures, should be a lot of fun. They offer 100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
The kit contains:
- 1 x Liquid Culture vial
- 1 x Needle
- 1 x Alcohol swab
6. Mushroom Hobby
Mushroom Hobby is passionate about sharing their mushroom-knowledge with hobbyists from all over the world. They also share blogs and recipes on their website. You can read all about grain spawn, mycelium, agar dishes and more. Be sure to visit their website for tasty recipes that include the mushrooms you have just grown!
The kit contains:
- 1 x Syringe filled with 10 CC to 12 CC of liquid culture
- 1 x New needle
- 1 x Alcohol wipe
- A one-page document on how to use the syringe
7. Maya Mushrooms
Maya Mushrooms grow edible, specialty and medicinal mushrooms, grow-at-home kits, and cultivation supplies. They believe in providing exceptional quality, locally grown, nutrient-rich produce at fair prices. By using up-cycled waste produce to grow their mushrooms, they strive to be carbon neutral while working symbiotically with nature.
The kit contains:
- 1 x 10cc syringe of liquid culture
- 1 x Sterilized 18 gauge needle
- 1x Alcohol wipe
8. Liquid Fungi
Liquid Fungi’s cultures are lab procured from the finest samples in the world. Each culture is tested and guaranteed 100% contaminate free, or they will replace it. Each syringe contains a proven, high-output, isolated sub-strain for maximum yield and minimum incubation time.
The kit contains:
- 1 x Syringe of Liquid Culture
Conclusion and Our Favorites
Due to the sheer variety of cultures they provide, our favorite supplier is Liquid Fungi. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t indicate whether their kits include a needle and an alcohol wipe. However, they provide detailed environmental information for each variety, so you know before you order what growing conditions you will be aiming for.
You can, however, buy mushroom liquid culture from any reputable supplier, and your mushroom growing adventures will be off to a great start. Everything you need to know from the best mushroom liquid culture recipe to the easiest way to spawn your mycelium can be found right here, in this blog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a special oyster mushroom liquid culture recipe?
No, all mushroom liquid culture recipes are the same. The mother culture you use will determine what mushrooms you harvest.
What sugar can I use in my mushroom liquid culture recipe?
You can use organic honey, corn syrup, corn sugar, light malt extract, dextrose (glucose). Do not use household sugar (Sucrose).
What is the disadvantage of liquid culture over agar?
You can't see contamination in liquid culture compared to on a plate of agar, where you can see mould right away. You will only know your mixture is contaminated when you use it.