Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com

Head Retention

It’s a given that a great tasting beer needs to look nice as well. I have finished several all-grain batches of 1.040-1.045 OG recipes using in some cases up to 20% caramel malt on the bill (no wheat). Careful attention to cleanliness, avoid heavy soaps, 20 min protein rest and sacc at ~154 F, vigorous boils, 20-30 IBU recipes, careful chilling, etc. Carbonation comes great but the head wont hold past 5 seconds after the pour. My stouts and porters are winners on head retention. So are witbiers and IPAs. Can’t figure it out for moderately hopped Amber Ales. I’d appreciate a few pointers on things that have worked. Not to keen on additives though.

First your actually reducing head retention forming compounds by performing a protein rest and 20 minutes is definitely excessive.

Second with 96% of base malts in the market today a protein rest is unnecessary unless you have high percentages of oats/rye/wheat that will need a beta glucan rest to prevent gum. Or if your mash contains unusually high amounts of corn/rice or other adjuncts that have low FAN, then by doing a protein rest you are increasing the FAN levels extracted from the base barley mash.

Third using wheat is something suggested in the past to help with head retention but it is mostly just a crutch with no real premise, Look to the link I provided below that speaks to this specific topic and within that thread is a link Denny provided that goes to a very in depth article that will help you entirely with this topic as a whole.

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=115738

I’d try a little carapils. I use 2 to 2.5 lbs per 20 gallons in most of my beers and the head retention is stellar.

+1 --works for me, 1 lb of carapils per 5 gal. batch…old fashioned oats cereal also gives you smooth mouth feel and great head.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]First your actually reducing head retention forming compounds by performing a protein rest and 20 minutes is definitely excessive.

Second with 96% of base malts in the market today a protein rest is unnecessary unless you have high percentages of oats/rye/wheat that will need a beta glucan rest to prevent gum. Or if your mash contains unusually high amounts of corn/rice or other adjuncts that have low FAN, then by doing a protein rest you are increasing the FAN levels extracted from the base barley mash.

Third using wheat is something suggested in the past to help with head retention but it is mostly just a crutch with no real premise, Look to the link I provided below that speaks to this specific topic and within that thread is a link Denny provided that goes to a very in depth article that will help you entirely with this topic as a whole.

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=115738[/quote]

Thanks ! Great article ! Based on this I will try a similar test recipe going straight to a full body Sacc Rest and test the results.

+1 --works for me, 1 lb of carapils per 5 gal. batch…old fashioned oats cereal also gives you smooth mouth feel and great head.[/quote]

Based on your tip I read several reviews on Carapils influence on head retention. Sounds like the way to go. We’re limited by malt availability down here in Costa Rica. Sounds like the next discussion topic with my LHBS owner buddy. For the time being will tackle through the addition of oats plus reduced protein rest.

oats are not best for all beer styles. like light crisp beers, the creaminess might be a turn-off.

+1 --works for me, 1 lb of carapils per 5 gal. batch…old fashioned oats cereal also gives you smooth mouth feel and great head.[/quote]

Based on your tip I read several reviews on Carapils influence on head retention. Sounds like the way to go. We’re limited by malt availability down here in Costa Rica. Sounds like the next discussion topic with my LHBS owner buddy. For the time being will tackle through the addition of oats plus reduced protein rest.[/quote]

OTOH, if you have the problems mentioned on the article, all the carapils in the world won’t help. I recommend diagnosing the problem before attempting to fix it.

got it ! mine are a bit like british milds so I may give it a try. Got an advice from a fellow brewer that late boil additions of up to 3 oz of apple/cinammon puree (no additives) helps as well. Wasn’t that obvious to me as typically 1 oz carries about 2% protein but I guess at this point everything’s game :cheers:

One important detail you left out (high fermentation temps). Make yourself a swamp cooler like one of the ones below that I have going right now. Fermentation temps are very important if you want to make a great beer vs a so so beer.

The lighter the beer, the more I have trouble with head retention, so I tend to go the Carapils route. I also don’t have the troubles stated in he article, as I am referring to all grain light lagers that are pitched with adequate yeast, aerated properly and temperature controlled fermentations.

It all depends on how much you use. Even a small amount can enhance head/retention without overloading the body of the beer.
I use varying amounts of oats in all of my beers, even the lightest, ‘crispest’ ones. You really don’t need much for it to have an effect.

The protein rest actually ruins the head on the beer. If you want good head, eliminate the protein rest and add rye. There is nothing in the world more heady than a beer with rye.

It all depends on how much you use. Even a small amount can enhance head/retention without overloading the body of the beer.
I use varying amounts of oats in all of my beers, even the lightest, ‘crispest’ ones. You really don’t need much for it to have an effect.[/quote]
That is good info. Thanks.

I’m not a big fan of adding wheat (or any specialty grain) to try to correct a problem with foam. If something is wrong with your foam, you need to find the problem and correct it, not try to cover it up by changing your grist.
One thing that struck me about your description was that the head formed, but then collapsed quickly. There are several possible reasons for this. One is very easy to check and correct, if needed — try cleaning your glassware with a different kind of dish soap or detergent.
Some dish soaps leave a film that is a foam killer. Try cleaning your favorite beer glass with a hot PBW solution, and rinse it thoroughly (with hot water). Then pour one beer into the PBW-cleaned glass and another into a glass cleaned in the manner you usually do. If the problem is with the beer, they will both show the same degree of head formation and collapse.

Chris Colby
Editor

Yo! Great article, Chris…still one of my go to resources. And great advice on going to the root of the problem.

[quote=“Viking Chris Colby”]I’m not a big fan of adding wheat (or any specialty grain) to try to correct a problem with foam. If something is wrong with your foam, you need to find the problem and correct it, not try to cover it up by changing your grist.
One thing that struck me about your description was that the head formed, but then collapsed quickly. There are several possible reasons for this. One is very easy to check and correct, if needed — try cleaning your glassware with a different kind of dish soap or detergent.
Some dish soaps leave a film that is a foam killer. Try cleaning your favorite beer glass with a hot PBW solution, and rinse it thoroughly (with hot water). Then pour one beer into the PBW-cleaned glass and another into a glass cleaned in the manner you usually do. If the problem is with the beer, they will both show the same degree of head formation and collapse.

Chris Colby
Editor
beerandwinejournal.com[/quote]

Thanks Chris. It’s a great point. I tried it as soon as I read your post. I cleaned the glass with hot PBW and soaked later in boiling water. This added several minutes to the stability of the foam in an imperial pint glass so it is certainly a contributing factor. I brewed a northern english brown ale yesterday with no protein rest and is fermenting at 18’C with ultra careful attention to cleaning. Will work the no additions route first. If unsuccessful I guess small dosage of oats may be the next step

As a conclusion to the saga, elimination of the protein rest improved dramatically head retention. Tried it on an 1.060 OG ESB batch and a nice foam ring stays all the way to the bottom of the pint.
Chris Colby’s advice on the glassware was extremely helpful. Chilled imperial pint glasses with PBW cleaning made the head retention superb. Thanks guys

No, thank you.
It is follow ups like you just posted that makes forum searches shorter and more compact. So that newer brewers with similar questions/ practices can easily find closure to the discussion instead of exhaustive fact finding. Also many threads lead off into left/ right field and dead-end which never shows the crux of the issue because nobody posted results either positive/ negative.

Thanks ! This forum has been extremely helpful guys, so I guessed I at least owed you a results post :smiley: As an afterparty, not sure why but I found the water to grist mash ratio influential. I shifted from a 1.5 qts per pound grain to a 1.25 ratio and the head was awesome. Same recipe same conditions. Maybe someone has the tech details behind this…

Back to Shopping at NorthernBrewer.com