Fizzy beer with no head

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emress

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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.
 

Dynachrome

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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?
 

Skyforger

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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?
 

downinit

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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.
 

Skyforger

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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.
 

JRems

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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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emress

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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.
 

ReefkprZ

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your OG does seem really low on the wheat beer. my last wheat beers OG was 1.049.
 

Captain Damage

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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.
 

Yooper

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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.
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!
 

Captain Damage

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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.
Excellent point! A friend of mine keeps her glasses in the freezer. Even cold beers from the fridge tend to foam over when poured into a 20F glass. Then, after it's settled down, the beer seems undercarbed because the thermal shock has caused all the CO2 to gas-off.
 

downinit

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As for the bitter aftertaste you mention - and I assume it is not hop related - maybe it could be caused by either bacteria or chlorine contamination. Whenever I have a bad flavor in a beer I consult a troubleshooting list found at: http://www.kroc.org/Links/TroubleshootingGuide.htm

Do you use tap water? If so do you do anything to get rid of the chlorine or chloramines in the tap water?
 
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emress

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Just finished brewing the EPA. Used IO Star for sanitizing (will probably get Star San next time, but I liked how there was no foam with IO Star). If this batch has the same fizzy characteristics of the previous brews I may try filtering my tap water next time.

The other thing that I thought of is that maybe some of my last beer (brewed last October-November) might actually not be fully carbonated in the bottles because they've been down in the 55 degree basement since November. I've now moved them upstairs to the 60-65 degree part of the house (can't get much warmer in this house). How can you tell if a bottled beer is finished carbonating?
 

Paisano

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I think there must be another factor at work here.

I also have been brewing with extracts, specialty grains, using a fair amount of hops, not been using the dishwasher or rinse-aids, have been meticulous about cleanliness, and pouring fully carbed bottled beer into a room-temp glass. However, I get great tasting, clean beer that is appropriately carbonated, but with absolutely zero foam head. My last batch I even used the Muntons carb-tabs containing heading powder to prime with, but still *zero* foam head.

I wonder, could there be something going on with the boil here? I usually get the wort to a roaring boil for a full hour and produce a large amount of hot-break in the brew pot. I am wondering if too much protein is precipitating out for foam retention?

I am open to any thoughts/suggestions here. I have great tasting beer that isn't as enjoyable to drink without a foam head. :(
 

unionrdr

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I remember seeing on craigtube that regular dish soaps can have that enzyme that coats the glass to make the water drops run off,so as to be "spotless". That can kill a head faster than an F-14 on a flame out. And,with this batch,I used spring water & a yeast starter. At 6 days,it had a certain clean crispness to it,even though it's still green. No off flavors to clean up,like last time. Pouring the hydrometer sample produced a small,but better head than last time,& finer bubbles...
 

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I wonder, could there be something going on with the boil here? I usually get the wort to a roaring boil for a full hour and produce a large amount of hot-break in the brew pot. I am wondering if too much protein is precipitating out for foam retention?
This is probably whats killing the head. I have been listening to an old brew strong pod cast this morning, talking about head retention. One of the things they talked about was losing protiens by boiling too hot and thermal loading the wort. That protien is one of the major building blocks of good durable head. When you boil, it does not need to be a crazy, bubbling over kind of boil. You just want some surface disturbance to keep the liquid moving . Another thing they talked about was partial boil versus full boil. With full boil keeping more of those protiens from breaking out.
Now with all that said, i am a total rookie and just relaying what i have heard. I can't speak from actual experience.
My first brew has good carb but no head, so i have been doing a little research on the subject. I believe i boiled a little too hard, and my first batch was a partail boil. My next brew i'm going to apply what i have heard (full boil, not so crazy boil) and see what the results are.
 

unionrdr

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That's why I'm glad my electric stove has trouble getting a lot of water to a full rolling boil. but,rather,a "heavy simmer". More proteins left for the head. Not to mention,doing a partial...:rockin:
 

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Emress, I am having this exact same problem! It's driving me nuts. I've used both extract kits and put together my own "kit" at the local brew supply shop. My primary fermentation is about a week and my secondary about 2-3 weeks, then bottle condition for about 2-4 weeks. I also follow the instructions (with occasional variances) pretty well, and sanitize with one-step. I've brewed 6 batches and they all suffer from the same over-fizziness and have a cidery after taste. I think we are having the same problem. I thought it might be a tube or carboy that was "contaminated" but after doing an extensive equipment sanitization the problem persists. I ferment in my house... about 65 degrees. So you are not alone! I'm having the same problem. Bummer.
 

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I had a similar situation with a dopplebock and a rauchbier. I normally don't bottle condition my lagers but I did these two times. Once they conditioned I stored them in a chest freezer set around 34 degrees. The longer they sat, the fizzier, less body and more carbonated they got until one finally burst. It wasn't until a Brewstrong podcast that Palmer talked about an infection that slowly continues to breakdown the dextrins leaving an over carbonated fizzy drink.

They weren't the worst tasting beers, just not the best. So far these are the only two batches that suffered from this. I haven't found any other explanation that I'm happy with so I'll chalk it up to a type of infection.
 
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emress

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paddington, I have since brewed an EPA, and while the taste is only so so (definitely needs more hops), the fizziness and off tastes are better this time. Changes I made: sanitized with iodophor, didn't use all the priming sugar, and cleaned extra well. I've also been working on my pouring technique, and leaving more of the yeast in the bottle when I pour into a glass, which helps with the taste. This beer has a good head and is much less fizzy. I'm really not sure whether that is do to the change in sanitizing product or use of less sugar, but I'm happy none the less! I would really like to move away from bottle conditioning all together, but can't afford other options right now.

Let us know what changes you make to your process, and what improves the taste and head the most!
 

unionrdr

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Emress,I've been considering the same fact. Insomuch as the cooper's carb drops are quite strong,even though only one was used in the 11.2-12oz bottles per instructions. I'm thinking of getting a bottling bucket,& varying the priming sugar to style. That is to say,less than the carb drops are giving.
When my bottled beers get past 3 weeks at room temp,& 5-6 days in the fridge,they start loosing head quality & flavor. They gain,however,in carbonation that decreases head & flavor exponentially to head quality.
So less priming sugar,& fridging the whole batch at once may preserve the proper qualities,imo...
 

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I saw this thread pop up again and thought i should leave an update for my case. My second brew is finished, a belgian dubbel. I am super pleased with the head and head retention i got. Took 3 weeks to carb up properly. The bubbles are nice and very fine. The head stays all the way to the finish of the beer, even if you let it sit.
Things that changed in my process are full boil with less heat. Liquid yeast w/ a starter. More controlled fermentation temp (water bath). I believe that the full, less vigorous boil made the difference in the head retention issue i had.
 

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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.
Also if you are using plastic PET bottles you must ensure those caps are SUPER tight. I mean REAF on them. After I bottle I have blisters on my hands from tightening the caps.


_oh grats on your new beer
 

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I brew the Octoberfest from the kit and the grain use for steping was not crashed and I didn't notice that. The beer was dry and had no body. I've added 6 oz. of maltodextrine to secondary and finished beer had head and light body. Check your grain and steping method.
 

unionrdr

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I noticed on my cooper's PET bottles that the caps have to be screwed down brutally tight. We fill/cap them all (30 PET's to a 23L batch). Then go back & crank'em all down again very tightly. Works fine so far.
But,I have to say,that the German Paulaner bottles work even better. They seem to have a slightly shorter body,& a bit longer neck,compared to a regular craft bottle. Now,while this does make for a larger head space,it does seem to aid in getting good head...:ban:
I've also finished a little experiment along these lines. I've found that my Summer Pale ale is better at 3 weeks at room temp,6 days in the fridge. Hop flavors,along with the buiscotti like malt sweetness is better then,with light carbonation to style for an ale. But at 4-5 weeks at room temp,the hops are going away,even the late addition ones. So does that wonderful buiscotti like sweetness.
So,last Tuesday night,I was thinking about it,as I couldn't get back to sleep. Then it hit me. Try less fridge time,since they've sat at room temp longer than what I found to be ideal. 2.5 days in the fridge,rather than 5-6 days,& less CO2 from the head space was forced into solution. Less carbonation than the big bubble,vigorous sort I'd normally see at this point. The head was def better,& some of the "lost flavors" came back enough to be noticeably welcome. Carbonation not only seems to mask flavors/aromas as the beer matures more,but possibly even break them down. So,once again,less is more. I'm starting to see why "carbing to style" is so important.
 

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ok so i've finally given up waiting to see if time was an issue - after 5 weeks in the bottle at ~72F a 6%abv extract/steep brown porter simply won't develop head. it looks like i am drinking a pint glass of pepsi/coke - it's carbonated and tastes great but it has ZERO head - when it's poured the resulting foam is identical to that of soda, ie large loudly fizzing bubbles that almost immediately dissipate.
i remember that when i made this batch the boil was vigorous, the first true boil over i ever had - i have a second batch of this porter carbing up about 3 weeks behind the headless batch i'm consuming which didn't suffer a vigorous boil over. so in another week this un-boiled-over batch will be sample ready, the ingredients are the exact same so if this one has head or even a hint of head then i will chalk it up lost proteins in a vigorous boil over. i will update this thread with the results of the pending test.
as for now though i guess i will have to drink this shamefully in a dark place.
 

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Shamefully? Why? You made good beer! Yeah there is no head retention but you'll figure it out next time. You still have good beer! Chin up.
 

unionrdr

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I started using half of the 3lbs of plain DME in the boil to do my 3 hop additions. I got a mini hot break that did see a little bit of proteins like wet popcorn swirling around during the boil.
I ad the rest of the DME,& all of the LME at flame out,cover & let steep for 15 minutes while still very hot. Seems to work pretty good. No matter how easily I try to pour into the glass,I get a lot of head.
Also,bulk priming with dextrose is the bomb! I think that's a big part of it.
 

gtlaw10

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Shamefully? Why? You made good beer! Yeah there is no head retention but you'll figure it out next time. You still have good beer! Chin up.
Thanks kind sir! Cheers, it tastes great but if i showed it to my buddies they wouldn't let me hear the end of it - heh.

I started using half of the 3lbs of plain DME in the boil to do my 3 hop additions. I got a mini hot break that did see a little bit of proteins like wet popcorn swirling around during the boil.
I ad the rest of the DME,& all of the LME at flame out,cover & let steep for 15 minutes while still very hot. Seems to work pretty good. No matter how easily I try to pour into the glass,I get a lot of head.
That's an excellent point uniondr, as I recall this particular batch was the only one I've ever added all my extract and then boiled it, still I couldn't tell you why I did this, but that's another difference between the two porters, when I redid the batch I added 1/8 of my extract for duration of the boil and then the remainder 5 mins before flameout. Such a twat, I always do it that way and now I can see why deviation was an error on my part...don't boil your extract to death...alcoholic soda-like beverages apparently await those who do.
 

gtlaw10

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ok so report:
I bottled my irish red tonight, which also signified the 3 week mark for my second non-boiled over and late add of majority of extract porter...and....
SUCCESS!!!! This version of the porter has head and the same great taste!!! The head itself was thick with small bubbles, creamy in texture and clung on until the last drop, I'd call that perfect. The body of the beer itself was more pronounced, not as hollow as the headless cola version of the same porter.
I can only really conclude that a less vigorous boil over lower heat to avoid boil-over during hot break plus the late addition of the majority of the extract was the key here to producing quality head on the brew.
Thank you for this thread - it has solved my problem.
 

quadbikerjosh

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might be the water? i had a similar issue with bitternes. i had an irish red ale recipie that i had done several times with good results until i moved to another apartment that had water that wasnt as good. i didnt realize until after i switched to drinking bottled water instead of tap water, then trying the tap water and one of the beers side by side after a hunch. very similar after taste and off flavors. for the next brew i got some of that filtered water they have at wallmart and everything tasted alot better. i think the head retention might have something to do with the protiens from your specialty grains. do you sparge hot water thru your grain bag after steeping? maybe try moving the grains gently inside the bag twards the end of steeping to get more protiens.
 

gtlaw10

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might be the water? i had a similar issue with bitternes. i had an irish red ale recipie that i had done several times with good results until i moved to another apartment that had water that wasnt as good.
sorry for the confusion, but i was bottling an irish red, which meant that 3 weeks had passed since i bottled the second, identical in ingredients only, porter. the issue with no head was with the first porter. this irish red was boiled gently without boil-over loss during hot breaks plus i managed to remember to add the majority of my extracts ~5 mins before flameout, which was the reason for success with the second batch of porter.:ban:

i didnt realize until after i switched to drinking bottled water instead of tap water, then trying the tap water and one of the beers side by side after a hunch. very similar after taste and off flavors. for the next brew i got some of that filtered water they have at wallmart and everything tasted alot better.
i would never brew with straight tap water. my water here above nyc is quite awesome as is, versions of it are used straight out of the tap by brooklyn and six point breweries. as for me and my little operation, our water comes from the tap and passes through a charcoal filter before becoming wort.

i think the head retention might have something to do with the protiens from your specialty grains. do you sparge hot water thru your grain bag after steeping? maybe try moving the grains gently inside the bag twards the end of steeping to get more protiens.
i do both of those things for my steep process. but as i was saying with the previous "SUCCESS!!" post was that, using the same ingredients but different, more controlled processes for the successful batch allowed me to conclude that the lack of head was due to proteins lost during vigorous, high heat, boil-overs plus a full 60 min boil of the entirety of the recipe's extract.:mug:

hope that clears things up.
 

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If nothing else has worked, I recently added a teaspoon of Cream of Tarter to a 1 gallon batch of ginger ale, which is meant to help with head retention. could be an idea to try in your next brew!
 

unionrdr

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Another reason why I do late extract additions. Head on my ales is crazy,like the pics you see of those German beers. But I am German,so...? lolz. I also get lighter colors from the late additions. That is a pretty wide definition,though. I get anything from straw gold with an amber blush,to dark brown with ruby tint.
I use only 1.5lbs of the plain DME in the 2.5G boil. I've been boiling off about 1/2G. Then do my hop additions. Add the remaining DME & cooper's can at the end. They come out very good,& the cooper's can style is changed to what I want it to be with said additions. I just like the way late additions work.:mug:
 

gtlaw10

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Another reason why I do late extract additions. Head on my ales is crazy,like the pics you see of those German beers...I just like the way late additions work.:mug:
amen!! i almost regretted straight pouring the beer into the glass without any hint of a slant...damn successful foaming.:rockin:
 

unionrdr

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With some of mine (the APA particularly),I can pour it on a slant,& still get crazy head. Creamy,thick,velvety head.
 

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I have always the same Problem .

One Cause would be that I lose lots of Proteins by Aeration , because there is always lots of Foams after aeration .

Hector
 

unionrdr

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After chilling my wort,I pour it vigorously into the FV,then dito with top off water. Then,stir very vigorously for 5 minutes. I get 3 "or 4" of foam. Take hydrometer sample,then stir & pitch starter.
 
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