Head Retention (or How to Get Head :-)

Wed Jun 14, 2006 3:48 pm

What makes big head on beer? I notice that IPA's never have much head. In German Beer, plain Spaten Lager has a big head sometimes, almost like what you see in cartoons of beer mugs. Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock) doesn't have any head at all. So what makes that big head on beer?
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Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:16 pm

The main factor in head retention are medium weight proteins that are derived from the malt. The amount of these head positive proteins that end up in the beer is largely a function of the malting and mashing. Highly modified malts (like ale malts) are generally low in these proteins and that's why most ales don't support a nice head. To compensate that, many home brewers like to add a small amount of malted or unmalted wheat to the grist.

Larger malts are generally less modified (although there becoming increasinly more modified) and will be able to provide more of these proteins to the beer, especially when properly mashed.

The alcohol content of beer has a negative impact on the head retention, but Spaten Optimator does have a head when properly poured. It may not be as strong and stable as the head of a helles.

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Wed Jun 14, 2006 6:48 pm

I like to add a bit of carapils to my recipes for head retention and body. I think I remember reading that Oatmeal adds to head retention, but may add a slippery mouthfeel.

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Homegrown Hops
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Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:30 pm

I've actually been adding a touch of Wheat to my recipes for head retention
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Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:45 pm

Flaked anything should help with head retention. I too have heard that too much will leave a slick or oily feeling, but have never gone that far myself.

A pound in a 10 gallon batch is what I usually do.

The CaraPils idea is interesting...
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Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:41 pm

i always add a bit of torrefied wheat to my mash for that.
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Fri Jun 16, 2006 4:55 pm

Adding things to your beer to increase head is not the answer, you need to fix the processes that are causing the head to fail first, A IPA will generally have a poor head retention because of the great amount of hop oils in a beer, but for some reason a pils or a pale that has alot of late hops will generally have a better head retention.......

If your brewing all grain there are a few things you can do,

as you may have all heard me continually say, a rest at 55deg c will do wonders, and Dan Gordon also mentioned this last week, any lower than that may cause the protines to break up to much and cause the head to fail

adding cara pils, flaked wheat, oats, or what ever will work, but you may also be changing the profile of the beer, the best way to do this with a single infusion mash is to increase the sacc rest temp by a few degrese c.

Seperation of cold break can also help to much hot/cold break in the fermenter seems to break down the head, but im stuffed if i know why yet, also ensuring you get a good break helps, has anyone noticed that (except for wheat beers) the more cloudy the beer is the worse the head retention?

so as i say instead of adding more things to the brew to compensate, work out what is causing the head to fail first
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Fri Jun 16, 2006 5:05 pm

wahey! degrees c so i don't have to convert it to know what you're talking about. anyway i'd better get to bed as i'm in no fit state to offer anything constructive at the moment. g'night.
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