The PF Tek was originally created by Robert McPherson and has had many changes and improvements over the years. I do not take credit for creating this method, this is just my thoughts, opinions and how I go about making Brown Rice Flour Cakes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PF_Tek Brown Rice Flour TEK I always advocate starting with the BRF tek for those new to mycology for the following reasons: -To learn the life cycle of the edible or gourmet mushroom of your choice If you do not know the growth parameters and life cycle growing a batch of cakes to start is in your best interest. Once you understand what cubes/oysters need to grow as far as moisture, misting, fanning, lighting, etc it will be a lot easier to take care of bigger projects. IF on the other hand you do not have a grasp of the growth cycle you are more likely to make mistakes and not provide proper care for your bigger projects, which result in bigger failures. -To learn the basics of sterile procedure If you cannot make and inoculate 12 BRF cakes under sterile conditions you have almost no hope of doing the same with grain jars. The simple procedures needed for growing BRF cakes instills the skills needed to eventually move onto grains, and other procedures in mycology that require a higher level of sterile technique. -To keep costs low Making BRF cakes is the cheapest, easiest method of growing mushrooms for a beginner seeing as you do not have to invest in a pressure cooker (PC). Making grain spawn is not all that much more expensive than making BRF jars, minus the PC, which causes a bit of a price jump. Timeline +/- of a BRF Tek grow Inoculation till first signs of growth - 7-14 days First sign of growth to full colonization - 3-4 weeks Full Colonization > Consolidate for 1 week From Consolidation till harvest - 1-2 weeks This is a rough guide of how long things will take. Remember that you cannot rush nature, and make sure that you have the time needed to complete the project. Part 1 - Preparation Material you will need: 1/2 Pint WIDE MOUTH Canning Jars -Can I use 1/2 pint jars that are not wide mouth? You can, but getting the cake out of the jar after colonization will be a HUGE pain. The reason we use wide mouth jars is to easily birth our cakes after the colonization period. If you use jars that are not wide mouth you will more then likely break your cakes trying to birth them, this is not a problem if you are planning on spawning your BRF cakes to a bulk substrate in a tray(Coir/Verm). -Can I use pint jars? You should not. Pint jars take much longer to colonize and are prone to stalling out and contamination before reaching 100% colonization. Some people get away with using pints, but they usually inoculate with a strong liquid culture to ensure fast growth. Starting pint jars from multi-spore has resulted in many frustrated growers. - Can I use 1/4 pint jars? 1/4 pint jars can be used, but remember smaller amount of substrate = less yield per cake. Because of the small size of the jars your cakes will finish up a lot faster then if you used 1/2 pints, but will yield a lot less. Vermiculite - Can I use a substitute vermiculite for perlite or other materials? (As far as cubes are concerned): NO, Vermiculite is a mineral sponge so to speak, it is able to soak up and hold large amounts of water. The vermiculite acts like a reservoir holding water and slowly releasing it to the mycelium as it grows and colonizes the substrate. Perlite on the other hand is crystalline and does not absorb water. Instead the water sits on the outside surface of the perlite and evaporates off. Vermiculite is used for a reason, and in my opinion cannot be substituted. (As far as Wood loving edibles are concerned): If you are planning to grow a woodloving edible using BRF cakes, such as Shiitake, Lions Mane, Nameko, Reishi etc etc you can substitute the vermiculite for sawdust. Do everything the same but use sawdust instead of vermiculite. Brown Rice Flour Brown rice flour is the nutrition that your mycelium will digest and "eat". You can use organic brown rice flour, regular brown rice flour, or even get long grain brown rice and grind it yourself with a coffee mill or food processor. Be sure to use short bursts if grinding your own so you do not burn out the motor on the grinder. Hammer/Nail You will be using the nail to make 4 small holes in the metal jar lid so you can inoculate your substrate. I prefer to use finishing nails as they have a small diameter and usually everyone has a few laying around. You do not want to make a large hole in your jar lids, just big enough for the needle on your spore syringe to go through. Tinfoil The tinfoil will be used to cover the tops of your jars before steaming/pressure cooking to keep any drips from the lid from entering the jar and messing with the moisture content. Mixing Bowl and Spoon These will be used to mix your substrate material that will fill your jars. Procedure: 1. Take your lids and begin by using your hammer and nail to place 4 holes near the rim of your lid, evenly spaced out as shown below. 2. Next you will be mixing up your substrate material. The ratio is as follow: -2 Parts Vermiculite -1 Part Water -1 Part Brown Rice Flour To make enough substrate for 5 jars place 2 cups of vermiculite in your mixing bowl, and then add one cup of water to it. Mix well and make sure that the vermiculite has absorbed all the water. Your verm at this point should feel moist to the touch, and when squeezed only a few drops should come out of your mix. If your mix is overly wet add a bit more vermiculite and mix well until you reach field capacity. If you make your mix to wet you will run into problems later. 3. Next mix in one cup of your brown rice flour, and mix well. What you are trying to do is coat the moist vermiculite in the brown rice flour. 4.Once you have a consistent mix you will load your jars. Equally distribute your substrate into your 5 PF jars. Make sure to leave the mix airy and not compressed. You will want to leave 1/2 inch at the top of your jars for your dry vermiculite contaminate barrier. Next take a paper towel and wipe the 1/2 space you left at the top clean from any moisture, brf or substrate mix. Then take some dry vermiculite and pour it into the space you have left. You do not want to pack it down but make sure you have enough to completely fill the space without leaving any air-pockets. Place your metal jar lid with the holes onto the jar and screw your metal ring piece on as well. Cover your jars in 1-2 layers of tinfoil to protect your jar from condensation drips. Part 2 - Sterilization Materials you will need: Pot With A Tight Fitting Lid OR Pressure Cooker This will be used to steam sterilize your substrate. Make SURE you have a tight fitting lid as you want to keep as much steam as possible inside of your pot to sterilize your jars. If you are using a pressure cooker be sure to read the instructions and safety information. Jar Rings/tinfoil You will use these to line the bottom of your pot( If steam sterilizing) along with a layer of tinfoil to keep your jars out of direct contact with the water. It is the steam that is doing the sterilization. If you do leave your jars in contact with the water, the water could possibly boil up and enter your jars. This will throw off your moisture content and could lead to bacterial contamination and other failures. Substrate Jars Procedure: Steaming 1. Line the bottom of your pot with spare jar rings as shown. 2. Add water to the top of your layer of jar rings. You want 1-2 inches of water. 3. Place your layer of folded tinfoil on top of the layer of jar rings. 4. Next place your substrate jars on to the tinfoil and make sure they are not in direct contact with the water, as started before it is the steam that will do the sterilization. 5. Place your TIGHT fitting lid on and turn your burner to high. Once the water starts boiling turn the burner down to a simmer and start your 90-120minute timer. I prefer 120 minutes personally as it gives me a higher rate of success. 6. If you are not using a tight fitting lid a lot of steam will escape and your pot will tend to boil dry. This will warp the bottom of your pot ruining it. I cannot emphasis how important a tight fitting lid is. If you need to add more water at anytime, use hot tap water and carefully pour it in your pot. Keep a close eye on your pot, work sober, be careful and add water if and when needed. 7. After the time is up leave the lid on, remove from heat and let cool overnight. Pressure Cooking 1. Place your trivet or metal rack into the bottom of your PC and fill with 1-1.5 inches of water. 2. Place your jars on the metal rack above the water line. 3. Follow your pressure cookers instructions to bring it up to pressure (15PSI) and let cook for 60 minutes. 4. After your pressure cooker cycle has finished turn off your burner and allow to cool overnight. Part 3 - Inoculation Materials you will need: 70% ISO alcohol Used to wipe down instruments, materials, latex gloves ect. Latex Gloves Your hands are covered in all kinds of nasty contaminates even shortly after washing them. Latex gloves that are wiped down with ISO alc is the best way to get your hands clean so they will not contaminate your work. Surgical Mask Make sure your mask is the style that surgeons and dentists wear, these stop the bacteria in your mouth from being breathed all over your work. Dust masks do not work for this purpose. Lighter I personally prefer to use a small propane torch for flame sterilizing needles and other instruments, although a butane torch or BIC lighter will work just as well. Glove Box You COULD get away with doing open air inoculations, but using a glove box (Still Air Box) will increase your success rate and keep a contaminate free work area to inoculate in. Some people cut arm holes in totes, some flip a tote upside down over the edge of a table so they can get their hands inside, and some even use a cardboard box. Whatever method you use do not forget that an enclosed area + iso alcohol fumes + flame = BOOM. The idea behind a glovebox is to create a work space where air currents are still. You would load your sanitized items into your glove box and then spray down the air inside with plain water, or a 10% bleach solution. Close the lid and let settle for 3-5 minutes. This will trap all the contaminates in the water and take them to the bottom of your glove box leaving you with an aseptic work space. The picture above is my personal glove box. I constructed it with a clear tote, some weather proof tape, and a pair of kitchen gloves. I cut a hole in my tote carefully with a heated knife and then taped the kitchen gloves into the holes to create a sleeve. I then cut the hands off the gloves so my hands could reach in and out of my glove box easily. Spore Syringe Many vendors offer different edible and medicinal mushroom spores to start your research with. Psilocybe cubensis spores are legal to own, obtain and research under a microscope, but the second you have the intention of growing them they are illegal in most places. ONLY GROW ACTIVE SPECIES IF IT IS LEGAL TO DO SO IN YOUR COUNTRY. For the sake of this article we are going to assume it is legal to grow cubes where you live, for everyone else you could try out oysters or other legal edibles using the PF TEK. When you receive your syringe some vendors will have the syringe and needle separate. Now before you get all gung-ho and attach the needle in open air, do not forget that open air contains hundreds of thousands of mold spores and bacteria so doing so would contaminate your syringe. Use your glove box to remove the cap on the syringe and then attach the needle for best results. Work fast and clean to ensure you do not contaminate your syringe. NOTE: Make sure you purchase your syringes from a trusted vendor. Many sites out on the internet are know for scamming, sending contaminated syringes, or syringes filled with nothing but water. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Before purchasing anything google the companies name, look for reviews and research to see if they offer a good product. The sites out there that have bad business practices have been talked about over and over again and this will make it easy to find information on them. If in doubt look for another vendor that leaves no doubt in your mind. Procedure: Using a Glove Box NOTE: Before going to work it is a good idea to take a shower, brush your teeth, and put on freshly washed cloths. This will help keep contaminates out of your work. 1. Take your jars out of your pot or pressure cooker and assemble them in your work area. Then remove the foil from the jars and wipe down the top and sides of the jar with a paper towel soaked in ISO alc. Place the jars in your glove box, put on your latex gloves and surgical mask. 2. Next spray your water or bleach solution into the box before sealing it. You should have two openings in the front for your hands (wearing gloves wipe with alc of course). Outside of your box shake your syringe to distribute the spores evenly and then flame sterilize your needle until it is RED hot. Next wash your gloves with some ISO alcohol and then enter the glove box with your needle in hand. 3. Place the needle into the hole in your substrate jar at an angle so the tip of the needle is up against the glass. Then GENTLY inject 1/4th of a CC into the jar. Remove the needle and repeat for the other 3 holes. You should use 1CC per jar, or 1/4th of a CC per hole. Set that jar aside in your box. 4. Remove your hands and the syringe from the box, flame sterilize your needle again and repeat as needed.You need to flame sterilize your needle between jars. One 12CC syringe should be able to make 12 1/2 pint BRF cakes. Inoculating in Open Air Inoculating in open air is easier then using a glove box, but will increase the risk of introducing contamination into your jars. 1. Take your jars out of your pot or pressure cooker and assemble them in your work area. Remove the foil lids and then wipe down the tops and sides of the jars with a paper towel soaked in ISO alc. 2. Shake your spore syringe to distribute the spore solution inside and then flame sterilize the needle. 3. Place the needle into the hole in your substrate jar at an angle so the tip of the needle is up against the glass. Then GENTLY inject 1/4th of a CC into the jar. Remove the needle and repeat for the other 3 holes. You should use 1CC per jar, or 1/4th of a CC per hole. Set that jar aside in your box. 4. After inoculating set that jar aside, flame sterilize your needle again and repeat as needed. You need to flame sterilize your needle between jars. Part 4 - Colonization After inoculation you will want to place your jars on a shelf and leave them alone. Most people new to the hobby want to move and check their babies every few hours. This will be detrimental for your cakes. Your dry vermiculite barrier acts as a filter, and the more you move and disturb your cakes, the bigger chance you will shift your vermiculite barrier and let contaminates into your cake. Room temperature is fine for colonization (70-75F, If you are comfortable, your cakes will be too), you DO NOT need any fancy incubators or the like. Cakes will colonize fine at temperatures even lower then room temp (60-70F) but will progress a little slower. If you are worried about keeping your temperature around 70-75F a small space heater can be used to do the job. Old outdated information has circulated the internet about the ideal temperature for cube growth being 86F, this is flat out untrue and outdated. Temperatures above 80F can promote bacterial and mold growth and germinate nasty contaminates that may not have germinated had the temperatures been kept a bit lower.Also you do not need to keep your jars in complete darkness, place your jars on a shelf and leave them be, ambient light is fine. Spore germination should take place in 7-14 days, time varies. Patience is key at this point, and you are better off to forget about your jars for at least 10 days before checking them all individually. CONTAMINATION Look out for any colored molds (Red,purple, green, blue, orange) this is a sign that your sterile procedure was not up to par, and these cakes should be disposed of carefully. Some people re-use contaminated PF jars, I do not recommend it, but if you must , pressure cook or boil the jars for an hour to kill off whatever contaminate you have grown. Then take the jar outside and dump it out before bleaching the jar, lid and jar ring. Another common contaminate of PF cakes is bacterial contamination. If at anytime the room your jars are kept in begins to smell funky (Like rotten fruit, socks, feet, eggs, sour smell, ect) dispose of the offending jar. Contamination can be due to a few different factors: Poor sterilization practices - Did you steam sterilize your jars for the required amount of time in a pot with a tight fitting lid? If you use a lid with a poor fit, or no lid at all chances are you will run into problems with contamination. Sterile procedure while inoculating - Did you follow proper procedure while inoculating? Did you use a glove box, wipe everything down with ISO alc, flame sterilize your needle before each jar? Germination Once your spores have germinated and you have clean healthy white mycelium growing on your cakes it will take from 1-4 weeks for the cakes to become fully colonized. Once your entire cake has been colonized you must leave the cake inside the jar for another 7 days for the consolidation period. This is done to give the mycelium time to digest the nutrition of the cake and get a better hold on the substrate. After 100% colonization and 7 days of consolidation you are ready to place your cakes into fruiting! (Photo's courtesy of kdmmontana) (Note that these are 125ML Jars or 1/4 pints) Part 5 - Fruiting Materials you will need: Clear plastic tote with lid This will be used to make your Shot Gun Fruiting Chamber. The bigger sizes will not only hold more cakes, but will also perform better. 50-115L totes are ideal, build according to the number of cakes you are fruiting. 1/4" Drill bit and Drill This will be used to make holes in your clear plastic tote on all 6 sides, roughly 2 inches apart. Perlite Perlite will be moistened, drained out and then layered 4-5 inches deep in your shot gun fruiting chamber in order to provide a high humidity environment for your cakes. The water sits on the surface of the perlite and slowly evaporates off into the air. Strainer You will need this to strain excess water out of your perlite. You want the perlite to be wet, but no saturated in water, there should NEVER be any standing water inside your chamber. Large bowl You will use this large bowl in order to dunk your cakes after birthing. Vermiculite Vermiculite will be used after the dunk to roll your cake in. This procedure is know as the dunk and roll, and the moistened vermiculite will act as a reservoir, it will retain water when misted, and will provide your cake with plenty of water. 6500K Compact Florescent Light 6500K is the ideal spectrum of light for the growth of cubensis as well as many different edible and medicinal mushrooms. You will want a light fixture that will allow you to have the light near to the chamber, or at the worst a place you can put your chamber to receive a few hours of indirect sunlight every day. 4 Empty 1/2 pint stubby jars These will be placed under your chamber to elevate it off the table/surface and allow air to flow underneath your chamber. Spray bottle with fine mist setting This will be used to mist your cakes and chamber during the fruiting stage. Procedure: Building your Shot Gun Fruiting Chamber - 1. Take your clear plastic tote, 1/4 " drill bit and drill, and begin to drill holes roughly 2 inches apart on all six sides of your tote. Be careful not to push to hard on the plastic tote with the drill bit or you may crack the plastic. This will take a bit of time but be sure to drill all 6 sides and then wipe out any plastic burs or debris. NOTE: If your tote is flimsy or you are cracking the plastic each time you drill, try setting the tote on its side and drilling from the inside out, with a piece of wood under the tote. This will help to prevent cracking. 2. Next pour some perlite into your strainer and quickly run cold tap water over it. Try not to inhale the dust from the perlite, it can be harmful to your lungs. 3. Once the perlite is soaked with water give your strainer a few good shakes and let all the excess water drain away. Stop shaking when no more water drips from the strainer. 4. Dump the now moistened perlite into your tote, and repeat until you have a 4-5" layer of moistened perlite inside your chamber. 5. Place your chamber where you are planning on fruiting ( In an open room is ideal) and raise it up off the surface it is resting on with 4 empty 1/2 pint stubby jars. This will allow air to flow under the chamber and up through the holes into the perlite. This will help the moisture evaporate off the surface of the perlite and create a high relative humidity in your chamber. Note about hygrometers: Most hygrometers(digital especially) are cheap, poorly made and inaccurate. The reason I have left a hygrometer out in the list of materials and supplies is because if you build your chamber correctly you will have 90%-99% RH when it is loaded with cakes. If you can find an analog meter with a calibration screw that is the only accurate method of measuring RH IMO. Take your analog meter and wrap it in a moistened towel for an hour. After the hour adjust the calibration/set screw so the front reads 100%. Your hygrometer is now calibrated and should be accurate. Do not be afraid to recalibrate it every few weeks or every month. Also note that condensation on the side walls of your chamber is not an indication of relative humidity. What this does indicate tho is a temperature differential between the inside of the chamber and the ambient room air. This causes moisture inside the chamber to condense on the walls of the chamber. If you build your chamber correctly your relative humidity will be in the needed range. Note about fruiting temperatures: 65-75F will work fine. The cooler your environment is for fruiting, the slower your mushrooms will grow. While they will grow slower they will also tend to be meatier and have thicker stems. Some people swear by fruiting in cooler temperatures, others say room temperature is fine. Go by the assumption that if you are comfortable chances are your mushrooms are as well. As you get a few grows under your belt you can experiment with temperatures for yourself. Birthing your cakes / Dunk & Roll - Now that your chamber is built you can start the process of birthing your cakes. Take your cakes that have been 100% colonized and consolidated for 7 days to a clean counter top and follow the step below: 1. Unscrew the jar lid and dump out the vermiculite barrier into the garbage. This has acted as a filter and will now hold any contaminates that tried to make their way into your jars. After removing the vermiculite layer firmly smack your jar onto a cutting board, piece of wood or counter top to remove the cake from the jar. If you used the proper jars (Wide Mouth) and did not compress your substrate the cakes will be easily removed. (Photo courtesy of kdmmontana) 2. Next take your cakes and under tap water remove any remaining vermiculite left over from the barrier. 3. Fill your large bowl or pot with water, and then place your freshly washed cakes into the container. Place a plate or glass bowl on top of the cakes to weigh them down and keep them fully submerged. You will want to keep your cakes dunked for 14-24 hours, I personally prefer 14-18. This is to replenish the water in your cakes so you will have a plentiful first flush. Do note that you DO NOT need to place your container with dunked cakes in the fridge. Leaving them out at room temperature should be fine. 4. After the dunk remove your cakes from the bowl/container and place them onto a clean area. In another bowl prepare some dry vermiculite. This is the roll part of the dunk and roll. You will then take your cakes individually and roll them in the dry vermiculite. The vermiculite will act as a moisture reservoir and allow your misting to replenish the water supply to the cake. Roll the cake around till it is good and covered. 5. Place your cakes into your SGFC on top of squares of tinfoil(So they cakes do not rest on the perlite) or a plastic lid . Once your chamber is loaded you can gently mist the cakes to moistened the dry vermiculite covering. Once the vermiculite covering has been moistened you can gently fan the chamber with the lid(Or a book, magazine ect) and then place the lid back on. NOTE: After the first flush you will need to dunk your cakes again to replenish the water content of the cake, and initiate the second flush. YOU DO NOT NEED TO ROLL AGAIN AFTER THIS DUNK. If you roll again you will be covering the outside of the cake (covered in contaminates from the open air) with a moist layer of vermiculite. This will promote growth of molds and bacteria and will ultimately result in your cakes contaminating. Dunk and roll for the first flush, and then only dunk for the second and third flush. Pinning Triggers Here are some of the triggers that are needed to initiate pinning: -Fresh Air The holes in your chamber in combination with fanning will provide your cakes with plenty of fresh air. This is the number one pinning trigger. -Evaporation from the substrate Misting allows your cakes to absorb moisture into its vermiculite reservoir as well as replenishes the moisture to the perlite. After you mist the water will begin to evaporate off the surface of your cakes, this is a VERY important pinning trigger. If your cakes are constantly water logged and soaked/drenched with water chances are they will not pin, will perform poorly, or contaminate. -Light Be it from a 6500K compact florescent or indirect sunlight make sure you have some form of suitable light for your chamber. You should have the light on a cycle of 12/12. You do not need the light to be directly against the chamber, but pointed at it a few feet away should do the trick. Proper lighting will help initiate a solid pin set as well as strong meaty mushrooms. IMO lighting is on the bottom of the list of pinning triggers, but something not to be ignored if you want a good harvest of beautiful fruits. Fanning and Misting Fanning and misting is a daily ritual that you will need to do to provide your cakes with the needed moisture and fresh air exchange to promote optimal growth. You will have to plug in your own variables and environmental conditions to find a routine that works for you, but here is a basic overview: Misting should be done 2-3 times per day. I like to mist lightly in the morning, in the afternoon, and then once more before bed. You want to set your spray bottle to the fine mist setting and directly mist the cakes. Do not saturate them, but allow a good portion of the mist to settle onto the cakes. As well misting helps replenish moisture to the perlite and keeps up relative humidity. After each time you mist you should be fanning your chamber with the chambers lid, a book or magazine. I like to fan for 15-30 seconds, this will start the process of evaporation off your cakes, which is a major pinning trigger. NOTE: If you work long hours your chamber will be fine if left 10-14 hours without misting or fanning. Just be sure to give them a good mist and fan before work, and then once again after you return. This will not effect your mushrooms negatively. If you are around to give your mushrooms more attention by all means do so, but do not worry about leaving the chamber for 10-14 hours. Fan every time after you mist, along with a few more times throughout the day. While I only mist 2-3 times per day, I tend to fan somewhere in the range of 5-6 times per day. This allows fresh air exchange and will keep your fruits very happy. There is such a thing as fanning to much tho, do keep in mind. Stages of growth (Pictures courtesy of OoBYCoO & kdmmontana) Pinning (Pins forming on BRF cakes) As you introduce your cakes to the many important pinning triggers hyphal knots will begin to form. These appear as little white bumps (1-2mm) and will soon develop into primordia. Primordia (baby mushrooms) will then develop into pins, and these pins will eventually develop into the mature fruit body. Fruit Formation Pins will then grow and mature into the mushroom fruit body. Harvest (This picture shows mushrooms past their prime to pick for potency, but the perfect time to pick to take prints) Here is a picture courtesy of kdmmontana that show the veil breaking away from the cap Depending upon what you are after there are two times that you could harvest your fruits. If you are going for max potency you should harvest after the veil breaks and before the mushroom begins to sporulate. If you are going after prints you should allow the veil to break, and then harvest at the first sign of spores being deposited on the stipe of the mushroom. I hope this guide sends you on your way to cultivating the edible or medicinal mushroom of your choice. I recommend reading through this TEK a few times before assembling your needed materials. Take your time, make sure you understand each step along the way, and DO NOT deviate from the TEK. Improvisation and winging things will result in failure or poor results and performance. Once you have a few grows under your belt you can start experimenting and trying different things. Good luck folks, and welcome to the ranks of those addicted to fungi!