How to Grow Mushrooms on Coffee Grounds: A Sustainable Guide

The Magic of Mushrooms Cultivation on Coffee Grounds

Have you ever wondered what to do with those used coffee grounds piling up in your kitchen? Well, get ready for an exciting adventure in sustainable gardening! Growing mushrooms on coffee grounds is not only possible but also incredibly rewarding. 

Why Coffee Grounds Make an Excellent Mushroom Substrate

Coffee grounds are an exceptional substrate for mushroom cultivation due to several key factors:

1. Nutrient-Rich Composition

Coffee grounds contain a wealth of nutrients that are highly beneficial for mushroom growth:

Nitrogen: Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, containing about 1.45% nitrogen by weight. This high nitrogen content is crucial for protein synthesis and mycelial growth.

Carbohydrates: Despite the brewing process, coffee grounds retain significant amounts of carbohydrates, which serve as an energy source for mushroom growth.

Minerals: Coffee grounds contain essential minerals like potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium, which are vital for mushroom development.

2. Ideal Physical Structure

The physical properties of coffee grounds make them well-suited for mushroom cultivation:

Particle Size: The fine particle size of coffee grounds provides an optimal surface area for mycelial colonization.

Water Retention: Coffee grounds have excellent water-holding capacity, maintaining the moisture necessary for mushroom growth without becoming waterlogged.

Aeration: When mixed with bulking agents like straw, coffee grounds provide a good balance of moisture retention and aeration, crucial for mycelial respiration.

3. pH Levels

Most mushroom species, particularly oyster mushrooms, prefer slightly acidic conditions:

Coffee grounds typically have a pH between 6.5 and 6.8, which is within the optimal range for many mushroom species.

This slightly acidic environment helps inhibit the growth of certain contaminants while promoting mushroom mycelium growth.

4. Pre-Pasteurization

One of the most significant advantages of using coffee grounds is that they come pre-pasteurized:

The brewing process effectively pasteurizes the grounds, eliminating many potential competing organisms.

This natural pasteurization reduces the need for additional sterilization steps, simplifying the cultivation process.

5. Lignin Content

Coffee grounds contain lignin, a complex organic polymer:

Many mushroom species, especially oyster mushrooms, produce enzymes that break down lignin.

This ability to degrade lignin not only provides nutrients but also gives these mushrooms a competitive advantage in colonizing the substrate.

6. Sustainable and Economical

From an environmental and economic perspective:

Using coffee grounds diverts waste from landfills, contributing to sustainability efforts.

Coffee grounds are often freely available, making them an economical choice for mushroom cultivation.

7. Versatility

Coffee grounds can support the growth of various mushroom species:

While particularly well-suited for oyster mushrooms, they can also be used for shiitake, lion’s mane, and other gourmet mushroom varieties.

This versatility allows growers to experiment with different species and techniques.

Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of coffee grounds as a mushroom substrate:

A study published in the journal “Mycobiology” found that oyster mushrooms grown on coffee grounds had comparable yields to those grown on conventional substrates.

Research in “World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology” showed that coffee grounds could be effectively used as a substrate for shiitake mushroom cultivation.

Getting Started: Materials and Preparation

Before we begin, let’s gather the necessary materials:

  • Fresh coffee grounds (about 5-6 cups)
  • Mushroom spawn (oyster mushrooms are recommended for beginners)
  • Large, clear plastic bag
  • Rubber bands or tape
  • Spray bottle
  • Cardboard box or small container

Choose the right mushroom spawn

While various mushroom species can grow on coffee grounds, some are particularly well-suited for this method. Let’s take a more detailed look at choosing the right mushroom spawn for coffee ground cultivation:

1. Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.)

Mushroom cultivation guide

Oyster mushrooms are the most popular choice for coffee ground cultivation due to their:

  • Fast growth rate: They can colonize substrate quickly, often producing fruit bodies within 3-4 weeks.
  • Resilience: They’re resistant to contamination and can outcompete many molds.
  • Substrate versatility: They can thrive on a wide range of organic materials, including coffee grounds.
  • Nutritional requirements: They efficiently break down lignin and cellulose in coffee grounds.

Specific varieties well-suited for coffee grounds include:

  • Pearl Oyster (P. ostreatus): Tolerant of a wide temperature range (55-75°F).
  • Blue Oyster (P. columbinus): Fast-growing and prefers cooler temperatures.
  • Pink Oyster (P. djamor): Thrives in warmer conditions (60-85°F).

2. Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)

While more challenging than oysters, shiitake can be grown on coffee grounds:

  • Longer incubation: Requires 6-12 weeks for full colonization.
  • Substrate mix: Often performs better with a mix of coffee grounds and hardwood sawdust.
  • Temperature sensitive: Prefers 55-70°F for fruiting.
  • Higher yield potential: Can produce multiple flushes over several months.

3. Wine Cap Mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata)

These mushrooms can adapt well to coffee ground cultivation:

  • Aggressive colonizers: Can quickly establish in the substrate.
  • Temperature range: Fruits best between 60-70°F.
  • Outdoor cultivation: Well-suited for garden beds with coffee grounds.

4. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

While more challenging, Lion’s Mane can be grown on coffee grounds:

  • Substrate mix: Often requires a blend of coffee grounds and hardwood sawdust.
  • Humidity requirements: Needs high humidity (85-95%) for fruiting.
  • Slower growth: Takes longer to colonize and fruit compared to oysters.

When choosing mushroom spawn for coffee ground cultivation, consider these factors:

  1. Lignocellulosic enzyme production: Mushrooms that produce a wide range of enzymes to break down lignin and cellulose (like oysters) are better suited for coffee grounds.
  2. Caffeine tolerance: Some studies suggest that certain mushroom species can tolerate and even metabolize caffeine, making them more suitable for coffee ground substrates.
  3. Nitrogen utilization: Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen. Species that thrive in nitrogen-rich environments (like oysters) are ideal.
  4. pH tolerance: Coffee grounds are slightly acidic (pH 6.5-6.8). Choose species that can tolerate this pH range.
  5. Competitive ability: Fast-growing species with strong mycelial growth can outcompete potential contaminants in non-sterile coffee grounds.

Mushroom spawn for coffee ground cultivation typically comes in two forms:

  1. Grain spawn: Easy to mix with coffee grounds, provides additional nutrients.
  2. Sawdust spawn: Can help balance moisture content in coffee grounds.

For beginners, grain spawn is often recommended due to its ease of use and quick colonization.

By carefully selecting the right mushroom spawn based on these scientific and practical considerations, you can significantly increase your chances of success when growing mushrooms on coffee grounds. Remember that while oyster mushrooms are the most popular and easiest to grow, experimenting with different species can lead to exciting and rewarding results.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Grow Mushrooms on Coffee Grounds

1. Collect and Prepare the Coffee Grounds

Collecting coffee grounds is the foundational step in growing mushrooms on coffee grounds. Ensuring the freshness and proper handling of the coffee grounds is crucial for successful mushroom cultivation. 

Why Freshness Matters:

Fresh coffee grounds are less likely to be contaminated with mold and bacteria. The brewing process pasteurizes the grounds, killing off many competing organisms. However, this pasteurization effect diminishes over time, making it essential to use the grounds within 24 hours of brewing.

Fresh grounds retain more of their nutrient content, which is vital for the growth of mycelium. Over time, the nutrient quality can degrade, reducing the effectiveness of the substrate.

Where to Collect Coffee Grounds?

If you brew coffee at home, collect the used grounds immediately after brewing. Ensure that the coffee maker and collection container are clean.

Many coffee shops are willing to give away their used coffee grounds. Establish a relationship with a local café and arrange to pick up fresh grounds daily. This not only provides a steady supply but also helps reduce waste.

Storage Tips:

  • Sanitary Environment: Store collected grounds in a clean, airtight container. Wipe the container with alcohol (70%) to ensure it’s free from contaminants. This prevents the introduction of mold and bacteria during storage.
  • Refrigeration: If immediate use is not possible, refrigerate the grounds to slow down microbial growth. However, aim to use refrigerated grounds within 24 hours to maintain their pasteurized state.

Handling and Transport

Use clean utensils and wear gloves when handling coffee grounds to prevent contamination. Regularly sanitize all equipment with isopropyl alcohol.

Transport the grounds in airtight containers to minimize exposure to airborne contaminants. Ensure the container is sealed properly to maintain the freshness of the grounds.

Preparing the Grounds for Use

Before mixing with mushroom spawn, break up any clumps in the coffee grounds. This ensures an even distribution of the spawn and promotes uniform colonization by the mycelium.

Mix  with Supplementary Materials:

Mix the coffee grounds with supplementary materials like straw or sawdust. This improves aeration and prevents the substrate from becoming too compact, which can hinder mycelial growth. A common ratio is 70% coffee grounds, 20% straw, and 10% mushroom spawn.

Coffee grounds alone can become too dense, limiting oxygen availability. Mixing with straw or sawdust creates air gaps, enhancing the substrate’s structure and promoting healthy mycelial growth.

2. Mix in the Mushroom Spawn

Mixing the mushroom spawn with the coffee grounds is a critical step in the cultivation process. This step ensures that the mycelium (the vegetative part of the fungus) can colonize the substrate effectively. 

Prepare the mushroom spawn

Mushroom spawn can come in various forms, such as grain spawn, sawdust spawn, or plug spawn. For coffee grounds, grain spawn is often preferred due to its ease of mixing and high nutrient content.

Before mixing, break up any clumps of spawn into smaller pieces. This increases the surface area of the spawn, promoting faster colonization.

The mycelium grows by extending hyphae (thread-like structures) into the substrate. Breaking up the spawn into smaller pieces provides more points of contact for the hyphae to start growing.

Optimal Ratio of Spawn to Coffee Grounds

Aim for a ratio of about 1 part spawn to 5 parts coffee grounds by weight. This ratio provides enough inoculum to ensure rapid colonization while being cost-effective.

If using supplementary materials like straw or sawdust, ensure they are also mixed thoroughly with the coffee grounds before adding the spawn.

Mixing Process:

  1. Sanitize Equipment: Use clean, sanitized equipment to prevent contamination. Wipe down mixing containers and tools with isopropyl alcohol (70%).
  2. Combine Ingredients: In a large, clean container, combine the coffee grounds and any supplementary materials. Add the broken-up spawn to the mixture.
  3. Thorough Mixing: Use gloved hands or a sanitized mixing tool to mix the spawn evenly with the coffee grounds. Ensure that the spawn is distributed throughout the substrate, with no large clumps remaining.

3. Create the growing environment

Use clear plastic bags, food storage bags, or sterilized buckets with holes drilled for air exchange. Clear containers allow you to monitor mycelial growth.

Fill the containers about two-thirds full with the mixed substrate. This allows space for air circulation and mycelial expansion.

Seal the containers with twist ties or elastic bands, leaving small holes for air exchange. This maintains humidity while allowing the mycelium to breathe.

Place the containers in a dark, warm location with temperatures between 68-75°F (20-24°C). Maintain high humidity by misting the containers daily.

Mycelium requires oxygen for respiration. Proper air exchange is crucial to prevent anaerobic conditions, which can lead to contamination and poor growth.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Check the containers regularly for signs of white, cottony mycelium spreading through the substrate. This indicates successful colonization.

Look out for any signs of contamination, such as green or black mold. If contamination is detected, remove the affected area immediately to prevent it from spreading.

The time required for full colonization can vary depending on the mushroom species and environmental conditions. Oyster mushrooms typically colonize the substrate within 2-3 weeks.

4. The Fruiting Stage

The fruiting stage is the most exciting part of mushroom cultivation, where all your efforts culminate in the appearance of mushroom fruit bodies. 

How to recognize the fruiting stage?

After about 2-3 weeks of incubation, you will start to notice small, pin-like structures forming on the substrate. These are the initial stages of mushroom fruit bodies, commonly referred to as “pins.”

The appearance of pins indicates that the mycelium has fully colonized the substrate and is ready to transition to the fruiting stage.

The mycelium, having colonized the substrate, begins to form primordia (initial fruiting bodies) in response to environmental triggers such as light, humidity, and fresh air exchange.

Prepare for fruiting

Cut larger holes in the growing bag to allow the mushrooms to grow out. This provides the necessary space for the developing fruit bodies to expand.

Use a clean, sharp knife or scissors to cut the holes. Ensure the cuts are evenly spaced to allow for uniform growth.

Mushrooms require oxygen for respiration and release carbon dioxide, which needs to be vented out.

Maintaining Optimal Conditions

Continue misting the substrate daily to maintain high humidity levels. Use a fine mist spray bottle to avoid over-wetting the substrate.

Aim for a relative humidity of 85-95%. High humidity is essential to prevent the pins from drying out and to promote healthy growth.

Mushrooms are composed of about 90% water. Maintaining high humidity ensures that the developing fruit bodies can absorb the necessary moisture for growth.

Temperature and Light

Maintain a temperature range of 60-75°F (15-24°C). Different mushroom species have specific temperature preferences, so adjust accordingly.

Provide indirect light. Mushrooms do not require direct sunlight but benefit from ambient light to trigger fruiting. A few hours of indirect light per day is sufficient.

Light acts as a signal for the mycelium to initiate fruiting. While mushrooms do not photosynthesize, light exposure helps regulate their growth patterns.

Monitore growth

Mushrooms grow rapidly during the fruiting stage, often doubling in size daily. Monitor their growth closely to ensure optimal conditions are maintained.

Regularly check for any signs of contamination, such as mold or unusual discoloration. If contamination is detected, remove the affected area immediately.

The rapid growth of mushrooms during the fruiting stage is due to accelerated cell division and expansion. Providing the right environmental conditions supports this rapid development.

5. Harvest your mushrooms!

Harvest the mushrooms when the caps start to flatten out but before they begin to curl upwards. This is when they are at their peak in terms of flavor and texture.

Gently twist and pull the mushrooms from the substrate or use a clean knife to cut them at the base.

Harvesting at the right time ensures that the mushrooms have maximized their nutrient uptake from the substrate, resulting in better quality and yield.

Post-harvest care to encourage additional flushes

Submerge the growing bag in water overnight to rehydrate the substrate. This helps replenish the moisture lost during the first flush.

Continue misting daily and maintain the same environmental conditions to encourage additional flushes. Most substrates can produce 2-3 flushes of mushrooms.

The mycelium can continue to produce fruit bodies as long as there are sufficient nutrients and moisture in the substrate. Rehydration helps sustain the mycelium’s activity.

Maximizing Your Yield: Tips and Tricks

To get the most out of your mushroom growing experience, it’s essential to follow best practices that ensure a healthy, productive crop. Here are some  tips and tricks to maximize your yield when growing mushrooms on coffee grounds:

1. Maintain a Clean Growing Environment

Always sanitize your equipment, containers, and workspace with isopropyl alcohol (70%) before starting the cultivation process. This reduces the risk of introducing contaminants that can outcompete the mushroom mycelium.

Wear gloves and a face mask when handling the substrate and spawn to prevent the introduction of bacteria and mold spores from your skin and breath.

Mushrooms are highly susceptible to contamination from molds and bacteria. Maintaining a sterile environment helps ensure that the mycelium can colonize the substrate without competition, leading to a healthier and more productive crop.

2. Optimize Environmental Conditions

Maintain a stable temperature between 60-75°F (15-24°C), depending on the mushroom species. Oyster mushrooms, for example, thrive in this range.

Keep the humidity levels high, around 85-95%, by misting the substrate daily. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels accurately.

Provide indirect light for a few hours each day. Mushrooms do not require direct sunlight but benefit from ambient light to trigger fruiting.

Ensure good air circulation to prevent the buildup of carbon dioxide, which can inhibit mushroom growth. Use a fan or open windows to improve ventilation.

3. Experiment with Different Mushroom Species

Start with oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) as they are fast-growing, resilient, and well-suited for coffee grounds.

Once comfortable, try growing shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes), which require a longer incubation period but offer rich flavors and high nutritional value.

Experiment with other species like lion’s mane (Hericium erinaceus) and button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) to diversify your cultivation experience.

4. Use Spent Coffee Grounds as Compost

After harvesting, use the spent coffee grounds as compost for your garden. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and other nutrients that benefit soil health.

Mix the spent grounds with other organic matter to create a balanced compost that improves soil structure and fertility.

5. Supplement the Substrate

Mix coffee grounds with other substrates like straw, sawdust, or gypsum to improve aeration and nutrient content. A common ratio is 70% coffee grounds, 20% straw, and 10% mushroom spawn.

Adding supplements like gypsum (calcium sulfate) can help balance the pH and provide additional nutrients that support mycelial growth.

Supplementing the substrate with additional materials enhances its physical structure and nutrient profile, promoting robust mycelial colonization and higher yields.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Even experts encounter challenges when learning how to grow mushrooms on coffee grounds. Here are some common issues and scientifically-backed solutions to help you troubleshoot and ensure a successful mushroom cultivation experience:

1. Mold Growth

Mold can appear as green, black, or other colored patches on the substrate. It often has a fuzzy or powdery texture.

Mold growth is typically caused by contamination, excessive moisture, or insufficient air circulation.

Solutions:

If you see mold, remove the affected area immediately to prevent it from spreading. Use a clean, sterilized tool to cut out the contaminated section.

Reduce the frequency of misting if the substrate is too wet. Over-watering can create an environment conducive to mold growth.

Ensure proper ventilation by increasing the number of air holes in the growing bag or using a fan to improve air circulation.

2. Slow Growth

Mycelium spreads slowly or appears weak and thin. Mushroom pins take longer than expected to form.

Slow growth can result from suboptimal temperature, humidity, or nutrient levels.

Solutions:

Check Temperature: Ensure the growing environment is within the optimal temperature range for your mushroom species. For oyster mushrooms, this is typically 60-75°F (15-24°C).

Maintain Humidity: Keep humidity levels high (85-95%) by misting the substrate daily. Use a hygrometer to monitor and adjust humidity levels as needed.

Nutrient Supplementation: If the coffee grounds alone are not providing enough nutrients, consider mixing in supplementary materials like straw or sawdust to enhance the substrate.

3. No Fruiting

Mycelium fully colonizes the substrate, but no mushroom pins or fruit bodies appear.

Lack of fruiting can be due to insufficient light, improper humidity, or inadequate air exchange.

Solutions:

Be Patient: Sometimes, it simply takes longer for mushrooms to fruit. Ensure all other conditions are optimal and give the mycelium more time.

Provide Light: Ensure the substrate receives indirect light for a few hours each day. Light acts as a trigger for fruiting in many mushroom species.

Increase Humidity: Maintain high humidity levels by misting the substrate more frequently. Use a humidity tent or plastic cover to retain moisture.

Improve Air Exchange: Increase the number of air holes in the growing bag or use a fan to enhance air circulation. Fresh air exchange is crucial for triggering fruiting.

4. Uneven Growth

Mycelium colonizes some parts of the substrate more densely than others. Mushroom fruiting is uneven or localized.

Common Causes: Uneven mixing of spawn and substrate, inconsistent environmental conditions, or physical barriers within the substrate.

Solutions:

Thorough Mixing: Ensure the spawn is evenly mixed with the coffee grounds and any supplementary materials. Break up clumps and distribute the spawn uniformly.

Consistent Conditions: Maintain stable temperature and humidity levels throughout the growing area. Avoid placing the substrate in areas with drafts or temperature fluctuations.

Remove Barriers: Ensure the substrate is evenly packed without physical barriers that could impede mycelial growth.

Embrace the Mushroom Growing Journey

Learning how to grow mushrooms on coffee grounds is more than just a fun hobby – it’s a step towards a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. By turning waste into food, we’re not only nourishing ourselves but also contributing to a healthier planet.

Remember, every expert was once a beginner. So don’t be discouraged if your first attempt isn’t perfect. Keep experimenting, learning, and growing. Before you know it, you’ll be harvesting delicious, homegrown mushrooms and sharing your knowledge with others.

So, are you ready to embark on this exciting journey? Grab those coffee grounds, get your mushroom spawn, and start growing! Who knows – you might just discover a new passion in the process.

Happy mushroom growing!

People Also Ask

Q: How long does it take to grow mushrooms on coffee grounds? A: The entire process typically takes 3-4 weeks from start to harvest. Mycelium growth begins within a week, and mushroom pins appear after 2-3 weeks. The final fruiting stage lasts about 5-7 days.

Q: Can I use coffee grounds from my home coffee maker? A: Yes, you can use coffee grounds from your home coffee maker. Just ensure they’re fresh (used within 24 hours) and properly sterilized before use to prevent mold growth.

Q: What types of mushrooms grow best on coffee grounds? A: Oyster mushrooms are the most popular and easiest to grow on coffee grounds. However, other varieties like shiitake and lion’s mane can also be grown with some modifications to the process.

Q: Is it safe to eat mushrooms grown on coffee grounds? A: Yes, it’s safe to eat mushrooms grown on coffee grounds, provided you’ve followed proper sterilization procedures and there’s no contamination. Always inspect your mushrooms before consuming and cook them thoroughly.

Q: Can I reuse the coffee grounds for multiple mushroom harvests? A: While it’s possible to get multiple flushes from one batch of coffee grounds, the yield typically decreases with each flush. It’s generally recommended to start with fresh grounds for each new growing cycle for best results.

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Passionate mushroom hunter and grower. I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best mushroom experts in the field! When I’m not writing mushroom articles, I can usually be found hiking and identifying native mushrooms in different parts of the world.

Related Posts

Chaga mushroom: Nature’s Immune-Boosting Superfood

Chaga mushroom: Nature’s Immune-Boosting Superfood

Key Takeaways: Chaga mushrooms are packed with antioxidants and immune-boosting compounds They may help fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and support overall health Proper harvesting and preparation are crucial for maximizing chaga's benefits Consult a healthcare...

Beech Mushroom Growing Guide

Beech Mushroom Growing Guide

Brown beech mushrooms, scientifically known as Hypsizygus tessulatus, are a type of edible mushroom native to East Asia. They are also commonly referred to as Buna-shimeji or brown clamshell mushrooms. These mushrooms are known for their small, brown caps and creamy...

Health benefits of cordyceps mushrooms

Health benefits of cordyceps mushrooms

Here are the key scientific findings and research related to the potential health benefits of cordyceps mushrooms: Cordyceps benefits for athletes Several studies suggest cordyceps can boost exercise performance and reduce fatigue: A 2016 study found that three weeks...

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Passionate mushroom hunter and grower. I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best mushroom experts in the field! When I’m not writing mushroom articles, I can usually be found hiking and identifying native mushrooms in different parts of the world.