Oyster mushroom cultivation using spent coffee grounds and hardwood sawdust

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2017: $14,994.00
Projected End Date: 05/15/2019
Grant Recipient: Firefly Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Renee Jacobson
Firefly Farm

Information Products


  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life

    Proposal summary:

    The major benefit of using spent coffee grounds and northern hardwood sawdust in mushroom production is
    to provide a locally-sourced food while reducing garbage that ends up in landfills. Locally-produced oyster
    mushrooms are superior in quality and taste to mushrooms that have traveled more than three days to market
    due to their short shelf freshness. Additionally, many oyster mushroom varieties travel poorly, breaking and
    splitting during conventional transportation handling. Small scale production of oyster mushrooms can be a
    viable part of a CSA farmer’s income. Use of locally-sourced growing medium as well as selling locally
    reduces the carbon footprint and coffee is a greater source of population than oak sawdust. [1] Growing
    oyster mushrooms on recycled medium is an indoor process that can provide northern farmers with
    additional CSA offerings and revenue throughout the cooler months. It is also readily scalable thus
    providing farmers the potential to increase production during peak demand times of the year. Finally, spent
    mycelium can be composted and used as a soil amendment in crop production, returning carbon to the soil,
    enriching the soil, and providing soil organism diversity for plants.

    There is little information on the use of spent coffee grounds as a growth medium for oyster mushrooms.
    What exists is predominately for countertop production. With the addition of northern hardwood sawdust,
    mushroom growing becomes more reliable. This research is aimed at determining the optimal mixture for
    highest yield of spent coffee grounds to sawdust based on percent by volume of the two.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal is to find an optimal mixture of spent coffee grounds to hardwood sawdust that yields the greatest
    amount by weight of oyster mushrooms to make this crop profitable. Additionally, using amendments to
    these mixtures to improve yield and quality will be studied. Cultivators will be created by obtaining 15 liter
    plastic buckets from local grocery stores, drilling holes for air exchange, sterilizing and filling them with
    inoculated medium, and ultimately observing their yield. Weekly observations during the spawn run will
    note if contamination from Trichoderma is occurring. Trichoderma is a genus of fungi that competes with
    the mushrooms for resources thus reducing yield. Contaminated cultivators will be culled to prevent
    spreading of contamination. The amount of culled buckets will be logged and taken into account when
    determining profitability. Insect control is critical to reduce the spread of contamination. Sticky traps made
    from Tanglefoot insect barrier will be used along with window and door screens to help reduce insects.
    Trials will be conducted using varying rates of spent coffee grounds to hardwood sawdust as well as trials
    using the optimal coffee ground to oak sawdust ratio determined above with additions of gypsum or sodium

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.