Author Topic: Head Problems  (Read 1908 times)

Offline pliskadm

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Head Problems
« on: July 21, 2010, 04:49:44 PM »
Hello all,
I plan to brew again this Sunday for my 4th all grain batch.  I have had a problem with getting my brews to develop and hold a good head on them.  Most of the time the brew tastes exceptionally good, with great carbonation, but it just has no or very little head.  I have mainly brewed IPA style beers using 2-Row Pale malt and I like pellet hops more than whole flowers or plugs.  This next batch is going to be a "Cascadian Dark Ale" from the July/Aug 2010 issue of Brew Your Own.  Has anyone encountered head problems?  My mash has always been on the mark for temp and time, and I use a CF wortchiller for a good cold break.  I could really use some direction on this matter..

Offline theDarkSide

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2010, 05:23:21 AM »
I use a little carapils and wheat malt in my IPA's and Brown Ale's ( picked up from Mike McDole's recipes ) and the head is great. 
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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2010, 05:24:27 AM »
A lot of times poor head retention can be blamed on fusels from either 1) warm pitching temps 2) warm fermenting temps or 3) improper pitching rates. What temp do you cool your wort to before you pitch? Do you control fermentation temps? Do you pitch enough healthy yeast? These are key points to have great head retention and if you don't follow them strictly no amount of cara pils or wheat malt will help.
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Offline denny

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2010, 08:28:53 AM »
All the carapils and wheat malt in the world won't help if you have other problems, and if you don't have other problems then you probably don't need carapils and wheat for head retention.  Look at Duvel for an example...nothing but pils malt and sugar and it's got the kind of head that homebrewers try to get.  Fermentation issues are one often overlooked cause, as Keith points out.  This article not only explains the issue, but also contains tests that can help you determine where your problem might be.

http://byo.com/stories/article/indices/35-head-retention/697-getting-good-beer-foam-techniques
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2010, 09:49:58 AM »
I agree with major and Denny. In addition, the density and longevity of the head will be determined by the type of malt and adjunct from which the beer was fermented. Different mash schedules and cereal sources influence head retention.

The beer head is created by carbon dioxide reacting with the surface-active materials like amphipathic polypeptides from malt that determine size, shape and length of the foam.

Some things like hops, a protien rest , specialty malts can all influence head retention but a sound brewing process is key here.

Good Luck!
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Offline tygo

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2010, 07:10:37 PM »
I've had some head retention problems on my brews as well.  After reading this thread and that article I wonder if it isn't partly due to my aeration technique which is simply violently shaking the carboy for about a minute.  It really foams things up and I wonder if I'm not using up the foaming agents present in the wort before the fermentation even gets started.

Would using an aquarium pump, in-line filter, and diffusion stone over a longer period of time, like half an hour, produce less foam?
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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2010, 04:46:49 AM »
Would using an aquarium pump, in-line filter, and diffusion stone over a longer period of time, like half an hour, produce less foam?

Actually, it would produce more foam. You could use a foam control product.
Keith Y.

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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2010, 04:57:33 AM »
A lot of times poor head retention can be blamed on fusels from either 1) warm pitching temps 2) warm fermenting temps or 3) improper pitching rates. What temp do you cool your wort to before you pitch? Do you control fermentation temps? Do you pitch enough healthy yeast? These are key points to have great head retention and if you don't follow them strictly no amount of cara pils or wheat malt will help.

+1 As Keith said, a healthy fermentation is very important.  Other process issues may come into play as well.  If you do a protein rest (I usually don't) make sure it's not too long as vital head forming proteins will be broken down.  A good strong hot break at the beginning of the boil and reasonably rapid cooling also help (to ~ 140F).  Presentation is also key here.  Make sure your glasses are detergent and grease free.  And don't put them in the dishwasher wih a rinse agent, that's a for sure head killer.
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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2010, 07:03:17 AM »
The best head retention of late was a N. German Pils with 100% pils malt we brewed in Dec., but is now sadly gone.  No car-pils required for a towering head on a German Pils.

Edit - and we pitched a big starter of lager yeast, aerated.  Fermentation was done in 5 days at a controlled 50F.  That was a healthy fermentation.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2010, 07:05:07 AM by hopfenundmalz »
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Offline denny

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2010, 08:24:49 AM »
Edit - and we pitched a big starter of lager yeast, aerated.  Fermentation was done in 5 days at a controlled 50F.  That was a healthy fermentation.

Holy cow, Jeff, that's outstanding performance!
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Offline redbeerman

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2010, 09:21:26 AM »
Edit - and we pitched a big starter of lager yeast, aerated.  Fermentation was done in 5 days at a controlled 50F.  That was a healthy fermentation.

Holy cow, Jeff, that's outstanding performance!

I have had the same experience as well with all-pils brews (pilsner and helles).  I must say the quality of my lighter beers has improved quite a bit since I started listening to folks like Keith and Kai, and Denny (and all you other beer-geeks out there ;))
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Offline uthristy

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2010, 12:00:21 PM »
Never overlook the beer glass, went from thick,meringue foam that lingered to a thin ring all due to using Palmolive soap.

The wife switched brands and I started freaking out about the lack of foam, back to Dawn & good rinse and the foam returned.


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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2010, 03:44:28 PM »
Edit - and we pitched a big starter of lager yeast, aerated.  Fermentation was done in 5 days at a controlled 50F.  That was a healthy fermentation.

Holy cow, Jeff, that's outstanding performance!
I thought something was wrong, did a gravity reading, and said wow, crank up the temp for a D-rest!  Still was some slow activity on the air lock, but it was essentially about one point or less of being done.

All of my lagers this year went fast.  I have been making sure the yeast have enough Mg and Zinc.  The NHC talk last year by Dr. Fishborn talked much about the importance of Zinc.  Greg Doss mentioned Zinc and Mg this year.





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Offline richardt

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2010, 04:51:22 PM »
How do you make sure the yeast have enought Mg and Zn?

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Re: Head Problems
« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2010, 05:36:53 PM »
Make sure you water has 10-20 ppm Mg.

Get zinc diet suppliment tablets.  For a 15mg tablet, it turns out that 1/2 tablet is just about perfect for 10 gallons.  Add after ground up,  at 10 or 15 min. left in the boil.
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