Beer head characteristics?

What brewing parameters control the type of head a beer has (I.e. Very fine bubbles, “coarser” larger bubbles, color,etc)? Is it purely carbonation method?

Check out this article on beer foam

You probably don’t realize how complicated and in-depth of a subject this is… But it’s a great question!

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ll try to relay what I know. Foam is basically a result of proteins in the malt. Some grains have more, such as wheat. This is why you get great head retention on a wheat beer. But apples and grapes have none, which is why you don’t get lasting foam on a cider or sparkling wine.

Hops also add proteins, especially dry hops, which is why a lot of IPAs have fantastic foam. I’m not sure why, but beers with brettanomyces also have incredible foam. I’m drinking one right now that I could scoop off some foam, and it would probably dry up like styrofoam.

As far as bubbles go, @mabrungard has explained it a few times that the co2 hydrolyzes (I think that’s the term) after a week or so, and converts into carbonic acid. The co2 goes from really large bubbles, like in a fountain drink, to really tiny bubbles like you get in champagne. I believe it has to do with the co2 not wanting to come out of solution so readily, hence the smaller bubbles. Fountain drinks are carbonated on demand, which is why they have such a coarse foam. If the co2 was held in the soda longer, the bubbles would be much tinier.

Also, pressure has a lot to do with it. More carbonation obviously can generate more foam, and completely changes the mouthfeel of a beer. Some beers benefit from the prickly sensation, others do not.

Hopefully this rambling post has provided something like what you were asking?? :beers:

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Thanks for the responses, they were definitely helpful in understanding better what is going on!