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Old 01-23-2011, 02:38 AM   #1
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Default Fizzy beer with no head

I've been extract brewing off and on for a couple of years, using kits from either Northern Brewer or Midwest (a red ale, amber ale, brown ale, and a couple of weiss beers). I do a partial boil, then primary fermentation for at least a week (usually more, I try and use a hydrometer), secondary for at least another week, then bottle and condition for at least 3 weeks. I've been using one-step as a sanitizer, and the corn sugar that comes in the kits for priming. I follow the instructions that come with the kits to a T.

Each of these beers has suffered from the same malady- they are simultaneously really fizzy, and when poured into a glass the head dissipates to nothing within a minute. Drinking the beer is sort of like drinking a coke, very thin and very carbonated. Each of the beers has also had sort of a bitter aftertaste that takes over the flavor, not sure if that's related.

I'm starting an EPA tomorrow and want to make sure it turns out better. One thing I've switched is I'm going to use IO Star instead of one-step. I'm also planning on fermenting and bottle conditioning upstairs rather in my basement (Minnesota winters=brrr!). And I'm going to be extra careful with cleaning.

Does anyone have any ideas of what the problem is with my beer? I'd really like to be able to actually enjoy this forthcoming EPA.

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Old 01-23-2011, 02:47 AM   #2
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What temp are you fermenting at? I had that when I brewed warm a long time ago. Also, are you adding regular refined sugar at any point?

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Old 01-23-2011, 02:57 AM   #3
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This happens even to the weiss beers? In my (all-grain) experience, even a little bit of wheat tends to give rather more head than desired. Where do you get the extract/kits from? Are you sure they're fresh?

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Old 01-23-2011, 03:04 AM   #4
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I would suggest you add specialty grains to your brew water as it is heating up - grains such as carapils or caramel 10L. Steeping these grains will add unfermentables that will increase the body of the beer and increase head retention. Steep them for at most 20 minutes in water under 170 degrees. Up to a pound.

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Old 01-23-2011, 03:06 AM   #5
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Searched around a bit, and apparently people use some (i.e. 4-8oz) flaked barley in a mash to improve head retention. Maybe doing a mini-mash, including this and some base grain, could help. Also, beer that has cleared properly tends to have better head retention. You could use a longer secondary, and perhaps finings, to get your beer clearer before bottling.

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Old 01-23-2011, 03:09 AM   #6
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Are the kits coming with specialty grains to steep? If so you could be steeping them too hot getting bitterness. What were the hydro readings when you bottled? Even if you are following the directions to a T, often those instructions are not always the right thing.

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Old 01-23-2011, 05:43 AM   #7
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Lots of good comments, thanks for your ideas. I am definitely not fermenting too warm, if anything I may be fermenting too cold, but I try and keep the temp in the mid-60s.

The kits are coming off the shelf at either Northern Brewer or Midwest Brewing. Its possible one or two weren't the freshest, but as these are reputable companies, I can't believe that's the main problem.

Each of these kits has come with specialty grains, so I will be extra careful to make sure I'm not steeping them too hot. The hydro readings have been different obviously, but two recent ones I've done have both been 1.035 for a wheat beer and a brown ale (at a temp 60-65F). This seems pretty low?

I'm not opposed to adding something like flaked barley to my beer, but I don't think that would solve the main problem. These beers are really unenjoyable. I talked to an employee at Midwest who said even when he was starting out doing basic extract kits, he followed the instructions and made really enjoyable beers.

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Old 01-23-2011, 12:20 PM   #8
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your OG does seem really low on the wheat beer. my last wheat beers OG was 1.049.

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Old 01-23-2011, 12:26 PM   #9
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I think it's Randy Mosher who points out that the idea that flaked barley improves head retention only exists among American homebrewers. Which is to say that no commercial brewers anywhere believe this, even those who use flaked barley in their recipes. That said, I haven't tried it so cannot comment from experience.

Head retention may actually be an issue with your glassware. Some have said that using rinse-aids in your dishwasher will kill your head (again, never used it so can't comment). I've found that making sure your glasses are super clean and well rinsed helps.

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Old 01-23-2011, 01:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Damage View Post
I think it's Randy Mosher who points out that the idea that flaked barley improves head retention only exists among American homebrewers. Which is to say that no commercial brewers anywhere believe this, even those who use flaked barley in their recipes. That said, I haven't tried it so cannot comment from experience.

Head retention may actually be an issue with your glassware. Some have said that using rinse-aids in your dishwasher will kill your head (again, never used it so can't comment). I've found that making sure your glasses are super clean and well rinsed helps.
I don't think it's the recipe- those kits are good solid recipes. That leaves two other things- technique and glassware.

For the techique, I just want to make sure you're allowing enough time for carbonation. You need at least 3 weeks at 70 degrees to ensure adequate carbonation. If your house is cold right now (mine is!) maybe you can bring 3 or 4 upstairs in the warmest place (on top of the fridge?) for a week or two before chilling them for at least 24 hours and trying again.

It's possible that the one-step left a "film" on your bottles so it's a good idea to change up. I'd suggest star-san. And I assume you're not washing/sanitizing the bottles in the dishwasher already, but I thought I'd mention to not do that if you are. Oh, the dishwasher sanitizes, but some people have "Jet Dry" or rinse agents in there that will kill a head on beer.

The last thing I thought of is your glassware. Believe it or not- it makes a big difference! I'd suggest taking your favorite beer glass and making a salt scrub. Just salt and water, and thoroughly wash the glass inside and around the rim with that salt water. Use it like a scouring powder, and then rinse very well and dry the glass. Try your next beer in that glass and see if it changes.

It goes without saying but you don't want to pour a warm-ish beer into a cold (chilled) glass either because you'll "knock out" the carbonation and get poor results.

Let us know how you fix this- I'm puzzled!
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