Autoclave or All-American Pressure Cooker – What’s Right For You
The Right Sterilizer
As a commercial mushroom grower, you know the right sterilizer means more consistent results with less fuss.
It’s not rocket science: just steam, pressure, and a bit of patience. But there are several types of sterilization equipment to choose from, each of which affects the time, cost, and output you can expect.
At the entry-level are home-grade pressure cookers. They’re perfectly capable, at least as a starting point.
However, they have very limited capacity and (usually) require external heat sources. Many growers find themselves accumulating a “chain” of pressure cookers and portable burners. At some point, it’s simply too cumbersome for commercial workflows.
That leads us to two more sophisticated options.
All American steam sterilizers for mushroom growers
One commercially viable alternative is a general-purpose sterilizer. The formidable, 25-quart All American 50X-120V is one of the most popular.
Its larger capacity means fewer runs throughout the day, and its self-contained heating element is generally faster and more precise than a burner.
However, All American sterilizers still require some babysitting. For instance, with each run of each device, someone needs to:
- Manually position the safety release
- Lower the temperature upon hitting your target pressure
- Occasionally check pressure as it runs, adjusting heat as needed to avoid serious danger
- Manually turn off the sterilizer when your timer goes off, and ensure pressure has dissipated before opening it
None of that is difficult. But it adds responsibilities to your already busy day, and pulls whoever’s on “sterilizer duty” away from any number of more productive tasks. And with divided attention, it’s all too easy to jeopardize a batch by over- or under-heating the unit.
For these reasons, many larger cultivators turn to autoclaves.
Laboratory Autoclaves for Mushroom Cultivation
Autoclaves work on the same principles as all the above. However, they sterilize several times more substrate in a single, fully automated cycle.
It’s a literally set-and-forget process:
- Fill the chamber
- Enter your settings via the digital controller
- Care of other to-do’s as it quietly sterilizes in the background
- Open it when the automatic, pressure-sensitive door lock releases itself
Our own line of autoclaves goes up to 150 L—six times the capacity of an All American 50X-120V. If you’re at the point of needing a “fleet” of sterilizers to keep up with production, then a single autoclave is generally cheaper on a per-liter basis, and far more space- and energy-efficient as well.
But why 150 L, and not even larger? We find that’s the sweet spot between efficient sterilization and easy set-up and management.
Industrial-sized autoclaves (and bulk atmospheric sterilizers) do offer even more capacity, but most require a dedicated water hook-up. Our autoclaves are manually filled, so they only need electricity and a drain. No complex installation, and no sweat repositioning them to suit your workflow!
In addition, some ultra-large-volume autoclaves yield unacceptable failure rates. Greater volume makes it exponentially harder to manage temperature and pressure, which introduces variability in the effective cycle. By sacrificing control for industrial scale, it can be unexpectedly hard to replicate your sterilization process.
Choosing your SH Scientific autoclave
If you’re ready to trade endless cycles of babysitting for more efficient, hands-off sterilization, then consider an SH autoclave.
Whether you’re upgrading your facility or just venturing into commercial cultivation, our line saves time from day one and saves money over the long haul.