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Old 08-12-2012, 01:40 PM   #1
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Default Little or No Head on Stouts

My fellow brewers...

Some time ago, I made a batch called "Deception Cream Stout." Recently, I made a batch of "Oatmeal Stout." Neither beer forms a "head" when poured. There IS carbonation in the beer, but no head. In both cases, I used the customary 5 ounces...by weight...of sugar to prime before bottling. Should I have used slightly more sugar? The "DCS" was bottled on 1 March 2012; the "OS" was bottled on 7 July 2012. It would seem that enough time has passed for carbonation. Am I missing something???

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Old 08-12-2012, 01:58 PM   #2
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Is this with extract or all grain? I ask because it could be a pH issue if it's only your dark beers that are suffering.

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Old 08-12-2012, 02:14 PM   #3
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I don't know those recipes, but I assume they have crystal malt and/or flaked wheat in them so you should have awesome head retention.

Do you normally get great head and head retention on pale ales and other beers?

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Old 08-12-2012, 02:53 PM   #4
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@ Yooper...yes, I normally have a decent head form while pouring. While it doesn't last long, it DOES form. And I do NOT put my beer glasses in soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. I simply rinse them thoroughly with hot water.

@ phenry...both of these brews were all grain.

Last night, I had an Oatmeal Stout followed immediately by a Deception Cream Stout...WOW, what a difference in taste/flavors! But both taste EXCELLENT...and there IS carbonation in the beer. Just NO head whatsoever!

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Old 08-12-2012, 03:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glenn514 View Post
@ Yooper...yes, I normally have a decent head form while pouring. While it doesn't last long, it DOES form. And I do NOT put my beer glasses in soapy water or run them through the dishwasher. I simply rinse them thoroughly with hot water.

@ phenry...both of these brews were all grain.

Last night, I had an Oatmeal Stout followed immediately by a Deception Cream Stout...WOW, what a difference in taste/flavors! But both taste EXCELLENT...and there IS carbonation in the beer. Just NO head whatsoever!

glenn514
Hmmm. I would try doing a "salt scrub" on the glass, just to rule that out. Just moisten the glass with some water, and sprinkle table salt on it. Rub it with your hand, doing the whole glass, like you would with scouring powder on a sink. Then rinse well. Dry with a clean soft cloth.

I assume you're using room temperature glasses, but if not make sure you do for the "testing". (It's tough, having to sample a beer at 9 AM, isn't it?!? )

As far as the actual grains, I'm sure those beers have crystal malt and/or flaked wheat or flaked barley. That should be sufficient. But in oatmeal stout, sometimes too much oatmeal can kill head retention. The oils in the oats can make a wonderfully silky mouthfeel, but that can interfere with the head, so I add flaked barley to make up for it.

How is the body of the beer? Does it feel medium to full? What were your mash temps?
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Old 08-12-2012, 05:16 PM   #6
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Yooper...many thanks for your responses. After looking back at my notes, BOTH recipes came off of HBT. The Deception Cream Stout was all-grain, including 1 pound of Caramel/Crystal 60L. The Oatmeal Stout was a partial mash with specialty grains, including 1 pound of flaked oats and 1/2 pound of English dark crystal malt. Both recipes called for a mash temp of 152°F, and my notes tell me that I hit that either quite close or right on the button.

I will do the salt rub on one or two of my beer glasses to see if it makes a difference.

Any other thoughts/suggestions? Using the same glasses, both a Hefe and a Phat Tyre Amber clone produce a wonderful head. That's what got me wondering if I'd missed something.

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Old 08-12-2012, 05:21 PM   #7
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And I know that the priming sugar is thoroughly mixed into the beer before bottling, because I sanitize my mash paddle and gently stir the beer and sugar in the bottling bucket for a few minutes before I begin the bottling process. So, it's not a problem with some bottles not having enough priming sugar.

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Old 08-12-2012, 05:57 PM   #8
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If your other beers have normal head retention with all other variables the same and this is just a problem with your very dark beers, do try to look into your mash pH. Do you do any mineral additions to your brewing water? Try adding a little bit of calcium carbonate to your mash water next time you brew a stout. Somewhere between 1 or 2 grams is usually how much I add to mine, depending on the amount of roasted grains and volume.

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Old 08-12-2012, 06:32 PM   #9
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I was having trouble with no head on several brews and finally traced it to the bottles which I had washed with oxiclean and didn't rinse well enough. Once I started rinsing better I got a pretty good head on the rest of the beers I brewed.

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Old 08-12-2012, 06:52 PM   #10
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It's puzzling, but I don't think it's pH related otherwise there would be flavor impacts. (Plus, don't EVER add calcium carbonate to your mash- ever, ever, ever). If it is a pH issue, then there are better alternatives to raising mash pH, but I seriously doubt that is an issue. A too-low pH beer would taste a bit tart or sour, or have conversion issues, and not taste fantastic except with poor head retention.

Anyway, I'm at a loss. You could try checking your thermometer that you use in the mash, just to make sure you weren't mashing too low.

The next time you make a darker beer, add 1/2 pound flaked barley. You can use it in lighter beers also, but it can cause a haze so it's normally just used in darker colored beers where a haze won't be apparent.

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