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Head retention

by Alberta Rager

There’s No Head on my Beer

Head retention is desirable in most beers. The ingredients chosen for the recipe design will influence the head retention of the beer. Generally the more dextrinous the beer and the more hops the greater the head retention. But, there are other factors which influence the brews ability to maintain that rich frothy head. Head retention is dependent on dextrins and the amount of small and medium sized proteins in the beer. The addition of dextrine malt (i.e. CaraFoam and CaraPils), or crystal/caramel malt at a rate of ½ - l pound per 5 gallons of beer will improve head retention as well as the use of up to 2 pounds of malted wheat. Hops can improve head retention. So, beers that are more highly hopped and dry hopped like pilsners, American pale ales and APAs generally have a bigger more long lasting head than lower hopped beers like brown ales and Scottish ales. Old ales, barleywines and other high gravity beers generally have a low head to medium head and may have low head retention. This is common because the higher alcohol level reduces head retention. Glassware with a thin film of soap or the use of rinsing agents either added to the special reservoir in the dishwasher or as a part of the detergent (i.e. the little pink ball in the center of the detergent cube) will cause the head to quickly fall. Soap that makes bubbles kills beer suds. It is best to hand wash glassware used when serving beer with a non-foaming, fragrance free detergent like washing soda or dishwashing machine detergent and rinse well with lots of hot water. If your water is very hard, you will have a more difficult time rinsing residuals from your glassware. Soap or oil in the kettle, carboy or other brewing equipment can get into the beer and ruin head retention weeks later. Although less common residual sanitizer in bottles which have not been drained prior to filling can ruin the head on the entire batch. Fats, oils, lipstick, lip balm and wax can all destroy the head. So with properly cleaned glassware, watch what you are introducing into the foam as you are consuming the beer. Guess that means, no chips allowed for a rich creamy head. The products of yeast autolysis can decrease head retention. Pitch only healthy yeast to a well aerated wort and do not allow the finished beer to sit on the flocculated yeast longer than necessary

This article was published on Thursday 14 March, 2013.
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