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Brew head retention - advice requested

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Brocster

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Hi all,

What advice would you all give to improve the head retention on some home brews, particularly darker and higher gravity beers?

Thanks!
 

JVD_X

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Don't use whirlflock or Irish Moss with extract brews - in the dark brews you won't notice this very much at all. You can toss in a handful of flaked oats.
 

Matt Up North

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If doing all grain then adding around 5% wheat or rye to a brew can add head retention. Flaked anything will also help. If you are making a stout then adding Flaked Oats or Barley up to about 15-20% really makes for some great head.

I don't do extract or PM so I can't help you with the steeping thing.
 

Denny

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Matt Up North

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How do we explain the lovely heads on many stouts that are just Barley, flaked and roasted? I was told by a brewer that it comes down to the betaglucens (found predominantly in Wheat, Rye, Flaked Grains) and therefor by adding more of betaglucen rich items, you get a better head. I am sure there is more science behind that, but I have found that with proper carbonation and above mentioned addition of a little wheat or rye or flaked into a grist, I have gotten great head on my beers that last easily the entirety of the pint. Sometimes even longer as I fiddle about doing something else (so not just for the five to ten minutes that I drink the beer).

Good carbing was one of the hardest things to get in order to realize that I had great protein structure in my beers. When I bottle conditioned I could never attain the right amount of carbing and always complained about my head retention.

PS...Denny, what kind of fermentation issues are we talking about here? Constant temps? Inconsistent fermenting times? Not enough head space so that the krausen blows off? Trying to learn a little bit more here :)
 

TwoHeadsBrewing

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For darker beers like browns, stouts, and porters flaked oats and Caramel malt is a good way to ensure a thick head. Mashing at a higher temperature will also help out with head formation and retention.

In lighter beers where clarity is of concern, I used white wheat malt - about 1# per 5.5 gallon batch. And of course, CaraPils added to anything will add body and head.
 
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Brocster

Brocster

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Thanks for the reply's everyone. This really is a great website.
 

Malticulous

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Caramel malts, raw wheat and maltodextrin work for me. High mash temps have done nothing good for head retention on my brews. Maybe watter has something to do with it too? Carbonation defiantly does have a huge impact-- just look at Duvel.
 

beesy

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When looking for a new recipe, I ran across a pretty good Mr Wizard reply to this in BYO, 09/07. Basically what everyone else is saying is true. Although, I won't go in depth, here is a list of things to examine/will affect head.

Carbonation levels
Add some foam positive proteins (from wheats/pils)
Hops - higher hops usually have better head
Check your brew cleaning agents and sanitizer - may be leaving a residue killing off your foam
Serving glassware - contaminated with fats (lipstick, dirty water) or detergent may be a foam killer
Brew without adding fat containing ingredients such as coffee, nuts, chocolate
 

CHansen6

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This probably isn't of a great deal of help if you do strictly AG. I do AG, but some beers I make are too big, and get supplemented with extract to get up to gravity (RIS, barleywine, bigger bocks, ect). I find using the Gold extract from Briess really improves the head. What seems to be far more retention than I can get from carapils. It might also have something to do with the higher proportion of specialty grains as well.
 

Denny

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PS...Denny, what kind of fermentation issues are we talking about here? Constant temps? Inconsistent fermenting times? Not enough head space so that the krausen blows off? Trying to learn a little bit more here :)

In general, underpitching and high fermentation temps, but check out that link I posted. It also describes tests you can do ti help figure out where the problem lies.
 

beesy

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sorry didn't get to chime in with my actual thoughts yesterday and just listed possibilities as that is prob not what you were after.

My guess is your sanitizer or cleaning agent is leaving a film on your brew equipment or your household detergent is the prob, or at least not helping.

You didn't say if you bottle or keg, so will assume bottle. a lot of my first beers i brewed with exact same sani and cleaner and equip have a lot better head and retention on kegs.

I did a light side cream ale at 1.041 og and with proper carb and the sam adams glasses (etched) i can keep a nice head on even this light a beer all the way down.

Hope this helps. :mug:
 

HOOTER

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CaraPils and lots of hops gave my latest IPA fantastic head retention and lacing.

 

Matt Up North

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I don't know if you can see it, but my latest Pale Ale had a rock solid head on it. I used a pound of Flaked Rye and a half a pound of wheat in a five gallon batch. The head actually went all the way past the glass and stood there like jello and wobbled back and forth for a few minutes ;) Also I beat my hot break down into the kettle for a good 10 minutes and have heard that can help with the head retention.



EDIT: By the way, my hand looks freaking huge in this picture. Like a giant holding a tiny glass. Amazing how that works out with the camera angle. Oh well, I am a giant in my own eyes. It reminds me of a picture of my sister.

 
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