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Old 01-31-2011, 09:39 PM   #1
OBecian
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Default Headless in San Diego

I've been having no luck getting a big frothy head on my bottle conditioned beers. Typically my beers have large bubbles that leave the liquid immediately upon pouring, and have the mouthfeel of soda pop. On the rare occaision that I do have a good head, I notice that the bubbles are quite small and fine. What could explain this difference, and how can I fine-tune my process to ensure a white frothy head?

Here's an overview of my process:
- All grain - typically mash at high temps 152 - 158
- white labs yeast - no starter, straight from the tube
- San diego water from the faucet
- no temperature control
- 3 weeks in primary
- I lightly invert my bottles halfway through the conditioning process

I've searched the forums and addressed several issues already, including the following but none of these have improved the head on my beer:
- I use starsan; no bleach or soap
- Plenty of time in the bottle at room temp; I have beers in the bottle for 3 months without head
- I've added additional corn sugar (increased from 4oz to 5oz for 5 gal. batch)
- I Use a narrow glass
- Added wheat; even my hefeweizens are headless

I haven't done the following but am considering:
- Using an adjunct for improving head
- reducing whirfloc usage from 1 tab to 1/2 tab
- Use a starter
- Adjusting water ph

Can you guys advise if these techniques are appropriate for increasing head and suggest any other ways that correct the complete lack of head in my beers?

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Old 01-31-2011, 10:42 PM   #2
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I have, in the past pitched directly from the vial and have had good head. The only thing that you are doing that I haven't done at least once is use whirfloc... maybe try one batch without it?

Also, how long are you leaving the beer in the bottles before drinking and how long are you leaving them in the refrigerator before opening? Generally 3 weeks in the bottle and 24-48 hours in the refrigerator are good times.

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Old 02-01-2011, 03:52 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by OBecian View Post
I've been having no luck getting a big frothy head on my bottle conditioned beers. Typically my beers have large bubbles that leave the liquid immediately upon pouring, and have the mouthfeel of soda pop. On the rare occaision that I do have a good head, I notice that the bubbles are quite small and fine. What could explain this difference, and how can I fine-tune my process to ensure a white frothy head?

Here's an overview of my process:
- All grain - typically mash at high temps 152 - 158
- white labs yeast - no starter, straight from the tube
- San diego water from the faucet
- no temperature control
- 3 weeks in primary
- I lightly invert my bottles halfway through the conditioning process

I've searched the forums and addressed several issues already, including the following but none of these have improved the head on my beer:
- I use starsan; no bleach or soap
- Plenty of time in the bottle at room temp; I have beers in the bottle for 3 months without head
- I've added additional corn sugar (increased from 4oz to 5oz for 5 gal. batch)
- I Use a narrow glass
- Added wheat; even my hefeweizens are headless

I haven't done the following but am considering:
- Using an adjunct for improving head
- reducing whirfloc usage from 1 tab to 1/2 tab
- Use a starter
- Adjusting water ph

Can you guys advise if these techniques are appropriate for increasing head and suggest any other ways that correct the complete lack of head in my beers?
All of the items in your "havn't done" list are a good idea, but won't have a lot of impact on your current situation. What do you ferment in? Air lock or blowoff tube? You mash high, where are your beers finishing? Have you tried brewing a SMASH?

If you are using a blowoff tube and get a lot of blowoff, it can certainly impact heading on your beer. Remember, if it blows out of the tube, it isn't in your beer. Certain adjuncts have a lot of foam negative protiens, a SMASH can help with diagnosis. What about your beer glasses? If you wash them in the dishwasher, and you use a rinse aid, that will kill your head.

Good luck
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Old 02-01-2011, 04:35 PM   #4
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If you are using a blowoff tube and get a lot of blowoff, it can certainly impact heading on your beer. Remember, if it blows out of the tube, it isn't in your beer.
Care to explain? Many German brewers open the fermenters and skim the krausen and claim it leads to a better tasting beer, with no impact on anything else.
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Old 02-01-2011, 07:15 PM   #5
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Care to explain? Many German brewers open the fermenters and skim the krausen and claim it leads to a better tasting beer, with no impact on anything else.
That isn't usually a continuous process though and a lot of the foam positive polypeptides drop back into solution. If, on the other hand, you were to ferment a 5 gallon batch in a 5 gallon carboy, with a large blowoff tube attached, you run a higher risk of stripping out too much of your foam positive proteins. This can be worsened if you are brewing a lightly hopped beer as foam positive compounds are also supplied by the breakdown of hop oils . Also, if you are getting a large portion of your fermentables from simple sugars, honey or low protein adjuncts like corn or rice, you are reducing the base concentrations of polypeptides from barley, thus reducing your headding potential. (Note that last item is not an issue for many German brewers.) If you combine that with the small fermenter and blowoff, the CO2 produced durring vigorous fermentation will attract a large percentage of your hydrophobic-foam positive polypeptides and carry them right out of the fermenter. the more blowoff you have, the closer you get to a headless beer.

Keep in mind, this is not the case for all beers. If you are brewing an IPA with a ton of 2row, you should have such an abundance of foam positive compounds, you may not notice an issue no matter how much blowoff you have. But, if you are brewing a lightly hopped american blonde, using rice to keep it light or adding corn sugar to dry it out, and getting a lot of blowoff.... well, I have seen how that turns out.
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Old 02-01-2011, 08:43 PM   #6
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I will start by reducing my whirfloc usage.
I don't use rinse-aid and I allow months for bottle conditioning. I use a blow-off tube on a 6.5 gallon carboy. I typically get a lot of blow-off and lose quite a bit of krausen.

But, I think you may be onto something, Bowiefan. Now that I think about it, my hoppy beers (IPA) typically have a good head whereas my lightly hopped beers (hefeweizen) have very little head.

Does the 2-row have more heading compounds than other malts?

For my next beer, perhaps I will try the simplified approach and do a SMASH, Any recommendations for 'guaranteed' head, if there is a such a thing?

Also, my beers are typically 6 - 7% in alchohol. Could this high percentage be detrimental to head?

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Old 02-01-2011, 09:53 PM   #7
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I will start by reducing my whirfloc usage.
I don't use rinse-aid and I allow months for bottle conditioning. I use a blow-off tube on a 6.5 gallon carboy. I typically get a lot of blow-off and lose quite a bit of krausen.

But, I think you may be onto something, Bowiefan. Now that I think about it, my hoppy beers (IPA) typically have a good head whereas my lightly hopped beers (hefeweizen) have very little head.

Does the 2-row have more heading compounds than other malts?

For my next beer, perhaps I will try the simplified approach and do a SMASH, Any recommendations for 'guaranteed' head, if there is a such a thing?

Also, my beers are typically 6 - 7% in alchohol. Could this high percentage be detrimental to head?
Not just rinse aid (jet dri), but also any soap or oil residue on your glassware will flatten head almost instantly. Ever seen the glass washer at a good pub? 160* water and no soap is the way to go.

Control the blowoff and you will see the head come back to your beer. You could give fermcap a try. I have never used it, but many here do and it gets good reports. Personally, I would get your temps under control. I also use 6.5s, starters and an oxygen rig, but rarely have to worry about blowoff as I keep my fermentation temps at the lower end of the yeast's range for the first few days, until the krausen starts to fall. This results in a vigorous though slightly longer fermentation, but lower krausen. All my beers turn out clear, clean and heady.

When malts are kilned, most proteins are denatured and most adjunct grains contain little to no LTP1 which is the protein in barley malt most responsible for head formation and retention. As a general rule, the more of your sugars that come from 2 row base malt, the better.

As for your ABV, higher gravity brewing has it's own effects on LTP1 due to greater foam fractionation during fermentation. This causes greater stripping of hydrophobic-foam positive proteins. In a closed fermenter the proteins that don't get stuck to the glass are largely re-adsorbed into the beer, but when using a blowoff that can't happen.

Proof that head is out there
img_20110116_141123-1.jpg

2010-06-13-17.07.03.jpg
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