PF Tek

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About PF Tek[edit | edit source]

PF Tek is the most beginner friendly method of cultivation. By using the PF substrate, these “cakes”

are highly resistant to contamination and require little in the way of care leading up to “birthing,” or removing them from the jar. On this page, we will discuss the barest bones method of growing using the PF tek, recommended best practices, and explore solutions to common errors and problems.

The minimum required equipment is listed below, with another section of option, recommended equipment. Being such a beginner friendly tek, success is achievable with household items most people will already have access to.

Minimum Requirements[edit | edit source]

  • Vermiculite (often referred to as verm—recipe ratio: 2 parts)
  • Brown Rice Flour (BRF—recipe ratio: 1 part)
  • Water (recipe ratio: 1 part)
  • 4oz or 8oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars
  • Steamer
  • Fruiting Chamber (Water Tub)
  • Alcohol Lamp, Jet Torch, or Lighter
  • Foil
  • Spray Bottle
  • Drill and a 1/4" Drill Bit or Hammer and Nail
  • 70% ISO Alcohol
  • 24 Hour Timer
  • Spore Syringe (Multi Spore Syringe)
  • Food Dehydrator
  • Storage (Quart Jar or Ziplock Bag)

Optional Equipment[edit | edit source]

  • Still Air Box (SAB)
  • Disinfectant Spray or Soap and Water Spray
  • Live Inoculant (Liquid Culture or Liquid Inoculant)
  • Alternative Fruiting Chamber (Shotgun Fruiting Chamber, Hydrated Coir Chamber, etc)
  • Pressure Cooker (Recommended)
  • Grow Lights (5000-6500k)
  • Coco Coir

Procedure[edit | edit source]

Here we will cover the basic steps up through harvest. Both minimum requirements and optional/recommended practices will be covered in this same section.

  1. Prepare lids. Take the lids from your canning jars and place them over a piece of sacrificial wood so as not to damage the surface beneath. Using either a 1/4" drill bit or a hammer and carpenter's nail, create one hole in the center of the lid. If burring occurs, use a hammer or other hard, flat surface to tamp them down. This step may produce fine pieces of very sharp metal, so be cautious. Optional: If you wish to create multiple inoculation points, do so now. 2-4 inoculation points are common, with the holes being close to the edge of the lid. These are used to inoculate the side of the cake, up against the glass. We will go over this in a later step.
  2. Prepare PF substrate. Using a large mixing bowl or other large container, mix vermiculite, brown rice flour, and water in a ratio of 2:1:1. That is 2 parts vermiculite, 1 part brown rice flour, and 1 part water. The volume of substrate this produces depends on your unit of measure and what type of vermiculite you have purchased. It is helpful to add water to vermiculite before adding brown rice flour, but it is not required. Mix thoroughly, working out any lumps, until mixture is homogenous.
  3. Load jars. Using a spoon, load your canning jars with PF substrate. Do not pack this mixture down. Doing so will lengthen colonization times, and may even stall your jars completely. Make sure the jar is full and free from pockets of air, but do not apply pressure to the mixture. A little shake will distribute the substrate in your jar well. The substrate should be loaded up to the fill line, the raised line directly below the metal band of the canning jar.
  4. Add dry verm. Once loaded, fill the jar the rest of the way with dry vermiculite. Filling another tub or bowl with vermiculite and filling the jars over this second vessel makes this step much easier and cleaner. This layer or dry vermiculite will act as a filter to prevent contaminants from reaching the PF substrate beneath during colonization. The dry vermiculite should be added all the way to the metal lid. There should be no empty space left once full. Once filled, add lids and metal rings.
  5. Sterilization. Using a square of foil, completely cover the lids of your canning jars. Using the largest pot you own with a tight fitting lid, place a layer of unused canning jar rings in the bottom if they are available. If these are not available, make stout rings from crumpled foil and place them in the bottom of the pot. These will elevate your jars from direct heat. Direct heat can and will crack the glass, so it is important to elevate your jars. Pour in 1-2 inches of water and place a robust layer of foil over the rings. Load your filled jars into the pot. Note: It is crucial that the pot you use has a tight fitting lid that will not allow much steam to escape throughout this 2 hour process. Lid the pot. Bring the water to a boil on high, then reduce to a simmer. Start a timer for 120 minutes. If, during this process, you need to add more water, use very hot tap water and carefully pour it into your pot. Do not leave this unattended. Work sober, be careful, and make sure your pot does not run dry. Optional: Pressure cooker. If you do not own a pressure cooker, proceed to step 6. Place your foil covered jars onto the trivet inside your pressure cooker and fill with your model's recommended amount of water. A splash of vinegar will prevent the glass of your jars from fogging, and you may add it here. Turn the heat on high and vent your pressure cooker for 12-15 minutes. Once vented, bring your pressure cooker to a pressure of 15-17 PSI. Start a timer for 45-60 minutes. Once you have run your jars through a pressure cooker cycle, remove the cooker from heat and allow it to depressurize normally. Remove jars once it is safe to do so.
  6. Cooling. Once your jars have been removed from the pot/pressure cooker, remove the foil covering. Do not let your jars cool with this foil covering, as condensation may form, drip into the openings created earlier, and compromise the dry verm barrier. The verm barrier is enough protection from this point forward. Allow jars to reach room temperature. Glass should be cool to the touch. Optional: It is possible to safely speed up the cooling process by using a water bath. Place the jars into a flat bottomed container such as a shoebox tub or baking dish and add room temperature water. Do not add water up to the metal ring. Do not get water into or around your inoculation hole. Once you have submerged the bottom two thirds of the jars in room temperature water, add a handful of ice cubes one at a time to the water. Note: do NOT place jars directly into an ice bath. This can and will cause the jars to crack and/or shatter. Use minimal ice.
  7. Inoculation. Bring the spore syringe, 70% isopropyl alcohol, a paper towel, and flame source to your work area. Vigorously shake the spore syringe to distribute spores throughout the solution. Uncap the syringe, exposing the needle. Wet the paper towel with the alcohol and wipe down the needle. Using your flame source, heat the needle until it glows red. Squeeze out the smallest drop of solution with the needle pointed up; this cools the needle. Insert the needle fully into your inoculation point and inject 0.5 - 1 cc of spore solution into your cake. Wipe the needle and flame sterilize after every other jar maximum. Optional: if you have opted for multiple inoculation points, insert the needle at an angle so it is between the substrate and the glass, and use only a few drops of solution per inoculation point. Still Air Box Usage: This procedure CAN be done in open air with little to no effect on success rate. Still, it is recommended that, if you have access to one, you use a SAB to practice sterile technique while you work. If you do so, make sure your alcohol and flame are OUTSIDE the box as not to cause a fire/explosion hazard.
  8. Incubation. Label your group of jars with the variety and date and then wait several weeks. Center Inoculation: At the 7-14 day mark, you should see mycelium. Once the entire cake has been colonized, you may move to step 9. Multiple Inoculation Points: Once the entirety of the outside of your cake has colonized, give the cake an additional week to consolidate. During this time, the unseen middle portion of your cake will colonize. Do not skip this week. Either Method: There is no set amount of time this step takes. Cakes can colonize quickly, slowly, and anywhere in between. Since these are multispore syringes and therefore have many sets of genetics inside them, cakes from the same run may colonize at drastically different rates. There is no cause for alarm unless cakes are taking 5+ weeks to colonize. If a cake is 5 weeks old and isn't near full colonization, there may likely a problem. Otherwise, patience is a must.
  9. Birth, dunk, and roll. Once the cake has fully colonized, proceed to birthing. Remove the ring and lid from your jar and dump the dry verm layer in the trash. Be careful not to accidentally throw your cake in the trash. Wash your cake under cool running tap water, removing loose verm. From this point forward, do not worry about exposing or handling your cake. This will not contaminate your cake. Once rinsed, fully submerge your cake in water for 24 hours. This hydrates the cake. Mushrooms are roughly 90% water, so do not skip this step. Tupperware, french presses, shaker bottles, etc. are good vessels for dunking your cakes. Tap water is fine unless you have exceptionally bad water quality where you live, in which case use bottled water. After 24 hours submerged in water, remove the cakes and roll them in dry vermiculite. As during the loading step, this is easier if you have a tub or bowl full of dry vermiculite. Do not coat the bottom of your cakes in verm. Optional: instead of vermiculite, you can use hydrated coco coir or CV (coir and verm mixture) to coat your cakes. The same principle applies; fully coat your cakes. It may take more finessing than verm, but hydrated coir is a fantastic alternative to vermiculite.
  10. Fruiting. Place cakes in water tub. (insert hyperlink to watertub here.) Using spray bottle of clean water, heavily mist cakes from 3 feet above, allowing mist to fall gently, until vermiculite is glistening with moisture. If coir is used, mist only when coir appears dry. If you have multiple cakes fruiting, it is optimal to place them close together so they create a beneficial microclimate. Over the next week, mycelium will grow around your verm/coir layer, colonizing and absorbing water. The lid of your water tub should be kept closed, but not air tight. The objective is to keep high humidity inside the chamber without sacrificing free air exchange. If you open the lid to check your cakes, add cakes, or correct anything, give them a light misting. If colonized cakes appear dry, give them a light misting until surface conditions (insert hyperlink to surface conditions here) are optimal. Fruiting may take 2-3 weeks, depending on variety and genetics. Optional: this method is compatible with multiple fruiting chambers. Water tubs are recommended, but shotgun fruiting chambers and hydrated coir fruiting chambers are perfectly serviceable.
  11. Harvest and Store. Once fruits mature, harvest fruits. Either twist and pull or cut from cake as near to the substrate as possible. Clean verm or coir from fruits, trim "roots" and place in dehydrator as soon as possible. If you wish to take tissue samples or spore prints, this is the time to do so. Mushrooms should be dehydrated at approximately 160 degrees F for 12-24 hours. You can not over dry your fruits. Heat will not damage the actives in your fruits. Once dry, place fruits into a vessel for long term storage such as a quart jar or large ziplock bag along with a desiccant such as silica gel. Keep away from moisture and light. Mushrooms will last for years under optimal conditions without potency loss.
  12. Celebrate! Congratulations, you have mushrooms!

Aftercare[edit | edit source]

After your first flush, you will need to prep your cakes for subsequent flushes. Again, mushrooms are about 90% water, and you've just taken all that weight from your cake. The cake itself has shrunk. This is normal. Before returning your cake to the fruiting chamber for flush two, make sure you've picked off all aborted pins and removed loose vermiculite. At this point, you may either re-dunk and roll your cakes or simply insure good coverage of vermiculite and heavily mist the cakes for a few days. Both options can be successful. If you notice a bluing or "bruising" of your mycelium, this is normal.

Many cakes will go for more than two flushes. There is no guaranteed number of flushes any given cake will produce, so you should be on the lookout for signs of contamination after your first flush. (Link here to page on contamination) When a cake has run its course, there is a high likelihood that it will succumb to contamination. If you find contamination on a cake in your water tub, do not panic. Remove the cake from your tub and discard it, or bury it outside if you wish to try for a few more mushrooms in nature. Your other cakes are not likely to catch this contamination if they are still vigorous and healthy. Remember, once birthed, your cakes are exposed to contamination 24/7, and a healthy cake will not contaminate. Also, the appearance of contamination on your cake doesn't automatically mean that contaminant has sporulated, or released spores that can travel to other cakes in the tub. Simply remove the cake and make room for more. They do not last forever. This is inevitable.

A common thing to note is that fruits on subsequent flushes are usually fewer in number but larger in size. This applies to cakes as well, though it is not a guarantee.

Troubleshooting - FAQ[edit | edit source]

Q: My jars aren't colonizing; what do I do?

A: If you inoculated your jars over two weeks ago and none of them show signs of growth, remove a cake from its jar and break it in half. If there are no signs of colonization inside the cake either, it is likely a loss. If there are signs of colonization, give it more time.

Q: My cake is pinning inside the jar. Is it safe to dunk and roll?

A: Absolutely. Proceed as normal.

Q: Some of my cakes have started pinning but others haven't. What's wrong?

A: Most likely nothing is wrong. These cakes are made from multi-spore syringes and contain thousands of sets of genes. They will likely not perform in unison.

Q: I found two different types of half-pint containers at the store, tall ones and short ones. Which is better?

A: Neither is better. Use whichever you can find or whichever you like the look of best. They are interchangeable.

Q: I can't find brown rice flour. Can I use something else instead?

A: While there technically are substitutes for brown rice flour in PF jars, it is highly recommended you stick to brown rice flour. If BRF isn't available, it is totally ok to blend whole, uncooked brown rice in a blender or food processor until powdered. Don't worry about making it flour fine. Blended is adequate and will perform nearly identically.

Q: This is my second time making PF substrate. My recipe produced more substrate this time. How?

A: This likely has to do with the variations found in the fineness of vermiculite, but it is normal. Load and sterilize your jars as normal.

Q: I can smell my jars cooking in my pressure cooker. Are they alright?

A: A little cooked flour smell is normal.

Q: I dunked my cakes for a little over/a little under 24 hours. Will they be ok?

A: While 24 hours is recommended, a little more or a little less won't be a huge problem. Work with the schedule you have.