So I’ve been homebrewing for about 6 months now and I feel that my “complete n00b” status is finally starting to wear off a little. Therefore, it’s about time I post something I learned to hopefully help other beginners like myself.
When I first started brewing I went at it full bore and made 5 “extract w/steeping grains” batches in about a 2 1/2 month period. I was extremely happy with the outcome of all those extract batches, except one important detail: the head retention sucked. I’d pour a pint and see a beautiful head form, but within a minute or so the entire head dissipated to nothing. This was NOT cool. I had to fix it.
So one night I was talking to this woman in my homebrew club at one of the meetings and without realizing it, I foolishly asked her, “Hey, what’s the secret to getting good head?” To my surprise, she didn’t slap me in the face. She just replied, “carapils!” and that was it. Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued and I started researching. Long story short, I discovered that certain proteins in certain malts can assist with developing good body and head for your beer.
Fast forward a few more months. I’ve since moved on to partial mashing and found a great IPA recipe that includes 8 oz. of carapils in the mash. What’s the end result? Beautiful, long-lasting head that slowly dissipates over the course of 5+ minutes and then remains as a small 1/8 inch head floating on the surface of the beer. Plus, it leaves beautiful lacing behind on the glass. And to top it off, my partial mashes have all tasted significantly better (think “more professional”) than my extract batches. I’ve made this IPA twice now but still have to bottle the second batch. I also have made NB’s Midnight Beatdown Wheaten Porter, which includes flaked wheat, another head-helping grain. That beer has fantastic head retention as well.
So I’m creating this post for anyone else out there who is struggling with head retention. People will probably blame your glassware, and it’s true – residual soap or other oils will kill the head faster – but if your glassware can retain a nice head when you pour a store-bought microbrew, then your problem is probably not your glassware.
If you struggle with head retention, ask yourself if your entire brewing process is free of oils, which I would think is achieved simply by cleaning everything thoroughly with PBW before you brew. By everything, I mean literally everything that touches your wort or beer; from kettle to pint glass. If so and you are still unhappy with your head retention, you should consider taking the plunge into partial mashing (or all-grain, if you want) and try a recipe that contains carapils, carafoam, flaked wheat or flaked barley. I bet it will help your head retention. It sure helped mine!
Here’s a pic of my IPA. This was 2-3 minutes after the pour: