Why Do I Want a Head on My Beer?

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JesterMage

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I keep reading a lot about head retention and how to achieve it. I have brewed 4.5 kits to date and none of them seem to have a head when I port them. They have plenty of carbonation but little to no head and what is there is gone fast.

So the question is, "Why Do I Want a Head on My Beer?" I know they look good but other than looking good and making a mess of my mustache, why am I searching for the ellusive foam topper like Indiana Jones and the Viking Tankard of Thor?

Am I the only one that looks forward to the head disappearing so I can drink it and not suck the foam from my mustache?
 

balrog

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Other than the esthetics, there are the thermodynamic properties of a foam insulating layer, keeping beer cooler, thereby keeping dissolved CO2 in the liquid longer, but that would certainly not be what I consider a first order variable as I'm sure more heat enters via phalangeal thermal transfer.
 

Mr. Vern

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42, I've had my stache for 1 year and I sympathize

Aside from aesthetics.. I think for some it is just a sign that carbonation and properties were correct for the style. Just a protein byproduct but we've grown accustomed to seeing it on top of a cold one.
 

Miraculix

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It has an effect on the perceived taste. It intesifies the aroma and the taste. Some people might say that the foam even protects the beer in the glass from oxygen. Foam also enhances mouthfeel. You want some head, without it, beer is just not as good.
 

tracer bullet

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It has an effect on the perceived taste. It intesifies the aroma and the taste.
Agreed to this. The first sips of a beer, for me at least, with the little bit of foam in them are always different than the rest of them. Something different on the tongue. Usually I kind of prefer it, especially w/ porters and stouts. Creamier?
 
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JesterMage

JesterMage

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Something different on the tongue. Usually I kind of prefer it,
It has an effect on the perceived taste. It intesifies the aroma and the taste. Some people might say that the foam even protects the beer in the glass from oxygen.

The next time I have a beer with a head on it, I will pay closer attention to these things. Maybe I will find a new appreciation with it.

P.S. Tracer Bullet it by far my favorite of Calvin's alter egos.

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bkboiler

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I kinda like the fluffiness of it...when it's done properly it accentuates the mouthfeel I think (it's all about perception, and appearance informs our taste somewhat.)
Just think about the difference in head between a munich dunkel, an oatmeal stout, and a Bavarian hefe.
Agreed if you brew a lot of specialty beers, chocolate beers, or sours then chasing after head retention may be a lost cause.
When I first started brewing I could never get any head retention...so my LHBS sold head retention powder...I used it shamelessly...it's all about perception. Hey it's food grade! 😄
 

Jako

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its part of the pour honestly, it knocks some of the CO2 out makes the beer more aromatic aids in mouthfeel. as much as you wouldn't think you drink with your eyes and first impressions are everything.

a great book and really fun to read is Tasting Beer by Randy mosher. lots of detail and science.
 

bwible

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I have brewed 4.5 kits to date and none of them seem to have a head when I port them. They have plenty of carbonation but little to no head and what is there is gone fast.
How are you carbonating? Bottle condition or keg? If bottle, check amount of priming sugar being used. There are a couple online calculators.

Glassware and the condition of your glassware is also a factor. Your glasses need to be “beer clean”.

 

Dancy

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I think some see a good head on a home brew as a sign of success in their final product, getting a result the big boy brewers achieve. I know I like the look of it.
 
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In my early years I was semi-obsessed with head retention, tried a lot of specialty malts and various rest temperatures, none of which seemed to make much difference.

Since then I kinda stopped caring about the foam and you know what? Most of my beers now have pretty good head. One of those things I guess, you'll achieve it only after you stop trying. I dunno how that applies to one seeking less head retention, but maybe try some carafoam or dextrine malt, neither of those did squat for me.
 

Velnerj

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I think a foamy head is a sign you've done a couple of things correctly: good sanitation and cleanliness of beer equipment and glassware, proper balance in the recipe, consistent temperatures in mash, and correct pouring methods.

It's the little things that add up and make an impact and homebrewers are often obsessed with the the little things that add up....
 

bracconiere

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Am I the only one that looks forward to the head disappearing so I can drink it and not suck the foam from my mustache?

i'm with you, but when i complained about my pours looking like this, and being irritated that i had to wait 5 minutes to be able to ACTUALLY be able to drink, with the thing just sitting looking 'pretty'.....they laughed at me!

932.jpg


edit: i was looking for tips, like maybe washing my fermenter with dish soap or something?
 
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JesterMage

JesterMage

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How are you carbonating? Bottle condition or keg? If bottle, check amount of priming sugar being used. There are a couple online calculators.

Glassware and the condition of your glassware is also a factor. Your glasses need to be “beer clean”.
I just poured a new British Bitter (bottle conditioned for 3 weeks). Used some priming sugar tabs from a kit. No idea what the OG and FG were (I have a hydrometer on order) I do know it was a bit warm when I pitched the yeast.

Still no head. Carbonation was "big" like soda carbonation. Lots of bubbles stuck to the side of the glass, like a soda.

I am planning on doing a cream ale next and will keep much better track of things
 

RM-MN

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I just poured a new British Bitter (bottle conditioned for 3 weeks). Used some priming sugar tabs from a kit. No idea what the OG and FG were (I have a hydrometer on order) I do know it was a bit warm when I pitched the yeast.

Still no head. Carbonation was "big" like soda carbonation. Lots of bubbles stuck to the side of the glass, like a soda.

I am planning on doing a cream ale next and will keep much better track of things
Often the cause of that symptom of no heading is from soap residue left when the glassware is washed in the dishwasher. If the problem persists, try washing the glasses by hand with plenty of rinsing.
 

bracconiere

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too much head.jpg



dude i'm not following the thread? i get plenty of head! i thought you were saying you weren't wanting it? i assure this stuff irritates me....in the time it took to take that pic, and type this the beer still barley ready to actually drink! ;)

(if we ever share i pint, i'll grab a straight edge, and when toast to another day. i'll scoop some into you're glass for you! lol)


edit: for the record, i like my beer oxidized....so i left it on co2 at 10psi for a week without purging the kegs....but it didn't take the co2, so i had to pull them, and purge, then burst carb at 50psi to 1.2oz's co2....so that was a recently shaken pour....
 
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Schmidt

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I keep reading a lot about head retention and how to achieve it. I have brewed 4.5 kits to date and none of them seem to have a head when I port them. They have plenty of carbonation but little to no head and what is there is gone fast.

So the question is, "Why Do I Want a Head on My Beer?" I know they look good but other than looking good and making a mess of my mustache, why am I searching for the ellusive foam topper like Indiana Jones and the Viking Tankard of Thor?

Am I the only one that looks forward to the head disappearing so I can drink it and not suck the foam from my mustache?
I personally prefer a Stout to have a little head to improve texture and flavor. The mustache gets in the way some, but that's just saving it for later.
 

bracconiere

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and just so people know....most people prefer a full glass, otherwise this wouldn't be a thing...


 
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JesterMage

JesterMage

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dude i'm not following the thread? i get plenty of head! i thought you were saying you weren't wanting it? i assure this stuff irritates me....
The post started out as me asking why do I want head on my beer. I typically don't like one but I must say they sure look pretty and impressive in pictures.
I was wondering if I was brewing wrong since I never seem to have a head on my beer and looks more like soda in my glass than beer.
I have learned several things, some people like them some people don't. I have learned that they can be used anywhere from
Landing pad for the gnats so they're easier to pick out and they don't get in the actual beer.
gnat catchers to mouthfeel and flavor enhancers
That is a good indicator that your glasses aren’t “beer clean”
or that i don't know how to wash dishes.who even knew beer clean was a thing?

After I get done posting this I'm going to go wash a couple of glasses and get ready for lunch later today and see what happens. I'm going to see if a clean glass will put a head on my beer and if it does I'm going to try to appreciate it more; in the end I will either like it or not like it but at least I learned some things today.
 

bracconiere

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i think 'beer clean' would be no soap residue? not sure.

if you want head, i get it buy pouring rough and fast so that there is a lot of foam. wait like a minute till the foam looks thick and drops down about half, then gently, slowly, pour to fill the glass the rest of the way. that's how you get the 'bursting' look.

(my post was tounge and check :mug:)

edit: now i want to ask. is this extract, and if extract. is it a coopers kit or something that uses beer enhancer?
 
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JesterMage

JesterMage

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This was a Northern Brewer British Bitter (the innkeeper i think. )Extract with steeping grains, hops, and yeast. No enhansers

Not sure what a coopers kit is.
 

bracconiere

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Not sure what a coopers kit is.
Aussie, British thing mostly i think. and the "enhancer" is table sugar, why i was wondering....(might be dextrose, whatever)

i'd be curious if you're willing, one beer would be sorta on the line. but just pour straight into the glass till it's full of half foam, (or if that doesn't get foam, i'd be stumped) let it sit till the foam looks like it's thickening up, then pour at an angle along the side.
 

mcmeador

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So here’s a question: What would qualify as good head retention? Are we looking for a finger’s worth or more of head to remain throughout the entire pint? Or is it just a paper-thin white layer remaining over the top of the beer for the duration of the drink?
 

mcmeador

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being it takes me over an hour to finish a glass, that would be impressive!
Yeah, I also take my time with mine. I would think that much head on a beer from start to finish would indicate overcarbonation, but I’m genuinely curious with what is considered good head retention. I know a beer with absolutely no head would be considered bad, but what is ideal?
 

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Best head retention, so far, has been my stout on nitro/co2 mix. I did add a pound of flaked barley to the recipe (for head retention of course). I plan to pull some of my latest IPA batch through one of the stout taps (putting it on nitro mix) to see how that comes out. I can already see myself getting another (or more) stout taps and changing the regular ones over. One of the reasons I'm glad I have six taps in the keezer collar.

For the record, I do enjoy some good head. Both for my beer and other things. ;)
 

Golddiggie

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i'm the opposite, i hate getting excited to seal the deal...then having to wait! :mug:
I guess I'm much more patient than you are. 😁
IME, too many things go sideways when you attempt to rush things. Or there's far greater chance of things going sideways. I do my best to be patient in all things. Of course there are exceptions, but not many. For my day job, it pays to do things right the first time. Better to spend a bit more time for that, then need to spend even MORE time soon after to fix things.
I have zero issue waiting for the beer cascade (from the nitro mix pour) settle. It's like watching beer pron... ;)
 

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I read somewhere last year that many British ale recipes call for 5% - 10% of the grain bill to consist of torrified wheat to promote head retention. So about 3 months ago I adopted the same approach, and it wasn't long before the brewer at my LHBS picked up on what I was aiming for, and assured me I was on the right track. This guy is an award winning brewer, quite possibly best in the state. He also asked if I could detect the subtle change in the taste profile. I think I can, and will discuss with him at our next meeting.

BTW, I bottle condition all my beers.

Cheers.
 

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