Episode #7 – Mushrooms On Old Coffee

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The Thinking Blogger Award

Rhett takes some time to answer some viewer mail. In addition, we’ve been tagged with the Thinking Blogger Award! So, in keeping with the award, here are our five favorite blogs and podcasts (they’re blogs, too!). If you write for any of these, consider yourself tagged! We give a blurb about each of the blogs in the video

For this week’s project, Rhett gives some pointers on how to get started growing oyster mushrooms on old coffee grinds. This sort of “direct to food” decomposition is a real godsend for those of us who don’t have back yards or large gardens for making and using compost. Put your kitchen scraps to work making gourmet mushrooms! For more information, check out this primer. For more information and supplies for growing your own mushrooms at home, or to get a professionally made oyster mushroom starter kit, you can also check out Fungi Perfecti (this is not a paid endorsement), Rhett’s favorite mycoloculture supplier. Growing mushrooms can be easy and a really fun way to get rid of kitchen waste. Give it a try!

Formats available: Flash Video (.flv), MPEG-4 Video (protected) (.m4v)

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  1. Heather G said,

    May 8, 2007 @ 9:03 am

    What an awesome idea. My gardening tends to hydroponics so I don’t have a lot of use for compost or worm casings, but I feel darn wasteful about throwing out veggie & coffee scraps from my kitchen. Do you have any good books you recommend about small scale (I’m an apt dweller too) mushroom growing? What shouldn’t I put in my shroom jars- I assume any animal product is a no go, but how about egg shells?

    Thanks for keeping me inspired to try new sustainable tech, guys!

  2. Rhett said,

    May 8, 2007 @ 9:25 am


    I’m just getting started on small-scale oysters myself, so I don’t have the exhaustive list, but I’ll do my best. Commercial growers of oyster mushrooms generally grow them on sawdust and I believe they’d grow on straw. So, they’re looking for something a little bit woody and with nutrients in it. Coffee makes a good choice, clearly. So would shredded newspaper. I’d suspect that you could also grow them on discarded fruit and vegetables, but I’d cut the pieces up finely and use them mostly with well-established spawn. Things to avoid– meat and dairy, fruit with large amounts of citric acid, and anything that’ll lead to standing water in the spawn. The mushrooms like moisture, but they can’t breathe in water.

    Eggshells are an interesting question. Offhand, I’d think not, as mycelia generally give off enzymes to break down plant fiber. I’m also not sure mushrooms require all that much calcium. Generally, they’re after carbohydrate, moisture, and a little protein. I used to grow lovely gardens on barley grains or brown rice flour. But, the beauty of working with fungi (as well as yeasts) is that you can always split one jar in half and use one half to start a “traditional” substrate and one half to start an “experimental” one. If the experimental garden fails, in a couple of weeks, the traditional one will be back up to speed.

    We’d love to know more about your hydroponics. That’s something we’d like to play around with more, since we think it’d help us maximize our space, and we’ve seen some websites that talk about inexpensive DIY hydroponics.

  3. Heather G said,

    May 8, 2007 @ 9:43 am

    Barley & brown rice flour are easy enough for me (I intend to make my own brown rice flour & rice milk…) . Thank you so much for all the great starter info. Mad mushroom science experiments to commence in my kitchen shortly.

    I’m moving in two weeks, so my garden is now in a minimalist state. The new apt will have 100 sq. feet of S facing balcony growing space & my goal is the have the efficiency of hydro work for me in supplying all the fruits, veggies & herbs for my household– including enough to put up (preserves/ frozen) for winter.

    It’s a bit of a daunting goal, but I will be blogging about my successes & setbacks.

    I’ll probably get the garden in high gear & even do some video blogging about it by this Fall :)

    You two are a real inspiration for me– thanks again!

  4. Sara said,

    May 9, 2007 @ 5:15 am

    Thanks for the mention, Rhett!

    I’ve been composting for ages, but have always used the finished compost to fortify the soil in my garden… have never tried growing anything on it. My sister-in-law once sent me a shiitake oyster box (basically, a box of semi-rotted wood pulp, impregnated with mushroom spores) for my birthday, and I have to say, the results were fabulous :)

    P.S. I love how your cat always makes an appearance in your episodes :)

  5. Rhett said,

    May 9, 2007 @ 9:02 am


    No problem with the mention. We love your blog, and thinking about the big, personal issues like you do really reminds us about what’s important when we pick a project. Fair is fair, though…now it’s your turn to pass the award on. *wink*

    I’m curious about your composting…you might make some converts of us here– how much of your kitchen waste do you compost, how much compost does this end up making, and how big is your garden? We’d like consider composting, because we doubt we could make enough oyster mushrooms to cover every compost-able in the kitchen, but we’re concerned about ending up with too much compost to support our small container gardens.

    Could you tell us more?

    We try to tell Zamis what a star he is. Mostly, he seems interested in jumping in our laps, though, and the camera is just an addition to that.

  6. Thinking Blogger « Visualize Whirled Peas said,

    May 9, 2007 @ 2:53 pm

    [...] been tagged by Greentime for the Thinking Blogger award. Herewith, are 5 blogs that make me [...]

  7. JP said,

    May 12, 2007 @ 1:04 am

    I am using coffee grounds as ant repellent, mixed in ariund the edges of the pots. It is supposed to keep them out, but since we are also using vinegar and soap on them, it is not clear how effective it is.

  8. Vanessa said,

    May 12, 2007 @ 9:19 am

    Hey dude! Thanks so much for the Thinking Blogger award — I’m honoured! I love this post, btw… love the cat, but love the ‘shroom trip even more. So funny.
    Do you have any general tips on composting in an apartment? I’m looking for a good SMALL bin to use, and what sort of worms I should be getting, if any. Or have you already done a post on this? I’m so behind in my blog-checking!
    Have a sunny weekend.

  9. Rhett said,

    May 17, 2007 @ 12:07 pm


    We really don’t have any good ideas on composting in an apartment. I wish we did! This is a general, four-alarm call for input!

  10. Ilona said,

    May 24, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

    I really wish I liked mushrooms :(

  11. Ben Hersey said,

    December 21, 2007 @ 6:50 am

    Composting in an apartment is tricky.

    Successful composting using thermophilic organisms requires a fairly delicate balance of air, moisture, nitrogen (your green waste), and carbon (your brown waste) in an environment that promotes heat and moisture retention and provide enough buffer to keep pests away.

    This is hard to do below a half-cubic yard of compost, in my experience.

    Vermi composting greens (with worms) and fungi composting browns is probably a better way to go in an apartment than in a setting with outdoor space.

    Remember that you want moisture like a wet (not sopping) sponge, and fresh air.. So you need to compost in a container twice as big as it seems you need so that you can roll or turn it to promote growth and aeration. Always chop your waste greens to promote quick composting. If your compost has too many greens you’ll get bacterial growth (which you’ll smell) and you need to add more carbon (and perhaps less water) which can be in the form of dampened shredded newspapers. Never add anything dry to your compost reactor.

    An outdoor compost reactor will naturally acquire a fungi -> thermophile -> red worm transition. If you have a buddy that has an outdoor compost heap see if you can grab a couple handfuls of compost after it’s gone past it’s hot cycle. It will have red worms and fungi and thermophiles in it that you need, provided it’s a well developed compost.

  12. Rhett said,

    December 21, 2007 @ 8:21 am


    Thanks for the amazingly detailed explanation of the issues surrounding composting. This is really a topic that we keep coming back to unsuccessfully, to the point that we don’t know which way to go with it anymore. As you probably know from Episode 20, we failed in repeated attempts to establish a mushroom garden, so that’s out, we’re not sure we have the space (or the proper temperatures) for vermi composting or more traditional methods, and yet we see how much of our garbage could be turned into something useful if we just had a winning strategy.

  13. Sandy said,

    January 4, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

    I’m also an apartment dweller who kept coming up against the same roadblocks on composting. Also, Cat + worms = bad idea. I just recently ordered a product that I hope will be the solution (though it is pricey). http://www.naturemill.com It hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t vouch for the results.
    Our house plants can only take so much compost, but I hope to be able to act as “the compost fairy” and drop off batches for family and friends who could use it.
    I’ll let you know how it goes.

  14. Rhett said,

    January 7, 2008 @ 11:04 am


    Please do let us know how it goes! We’d love to make something useful from our kitchen waste!

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