Author Topic: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?  (Read 3862 times)

Offline hillbillybrewer

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Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« on: November 28, 2009, 08:35:58 PM »
Throughout the years I've had something that really irks me, which is inconsistent head retention.  Some batches would have what I would call a "prize winning head" and others just little to no head upon pour.  I've brewed two Cream Ale extract kits in the last two months.

First kit - The first I used a cheap hotplate which I rewired to bypass the thermostat so it stays on as long as it's plugged in.  This thing takes an hour to bring 1.5 gallons of water to a boil.  I steeped specialty grains for about 30 minutes until the temp hit 168.  When boiling commenced, I added the hops and boiled for 30 minutes then added the 6# LME.  After 45 minutes when the boil finally returned, I boiled for 15 minutes then added to fermenter which already contained most of my top off water.  This beer had immaculate head, great lacing, tasted awesome.  (This kit fermented at an ambient of 76)

Second kit - This time I tried out my new turkey fryer.  2 gallons of water in kettle this time (I don't have a chiller yet).  Steeped grains for 30 minutes at 150, raised heat and removed them at 168.  Brought to boil.  Added 6# LME.  Returned to boil, added hops, boiled for an hour, added to fermenter per my norm.  The head on this was pretty much non-existent.  (This batch fermented at an ambient of 60)

Both batches primed with 4oz corn sugar.  Has anyone else had any experiences like this?  My thoughts comparing the two is that boiling the extract longer is what may have caused the lack of head retention.  Opinions most welcomed!
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Offline dhacker

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2009, 06:14:45 AM »
What steeping grains were included with the kit? Some kits throw in several ounces of carapils which aids in head retention. However, you are really gonna need to have better control of your ferment temps if you hope to achieve any consistency.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2009, 06:23:50 AM »
First of all, no beer should ever be fermented at an ambient of 76 - hopefully that was a typo. Oddly enough, contrary to your post, fermentation temps have one of the biggest impacts on head retention. If you are fermenting much warmer than 68-70 degrees for most ale (fermentation temps, not ambient) then you head retention will be terrible - and so will the head aches that come with beers fermented that warm. Warm fermentation causes fusel oils which not only kill beer head but kill your head too.  ;) If you fermented at an ambient of 76 - your fermentation temps were through the roof!!

The strange thing is that you say your head retention was great on that beer, and non existent - which is a little confusing. However, the other component of good head retention is how much yeast you pitch and, or how healthy your fermentation is. You must pitch enough yeast, that means making a starter or pitching slurry with liquid yeast.

Regardless, reading your post t appears you have sloppy fermentation practices. You need to get a handle on that. Fermentation makes the beer - and pitching temps (never pitch over 70, preferably much cooler), fermentation temps (never ferment much warmer than 68-70 - which means your ambient must be in the low to mid 60s) and always be sure to pitch enough yeast. You get those areas ironed out and you will see all kinds of improvements in your beer.

As far as the length of the boil, (if I recall correctly) a longer boil can break down the proteins that form head retention so I would say that is not an issue either.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2009, 06:28:32 AM by majorvices »
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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2009, 06:27:33 AM »
Dhacker is correct with respect to having consistency and being able to make the comparison you are trying to make. There are a lot of factors that affect head retention.

This being said, what you are seeing matches my expectations. Boiling coagulates proteins and the longer you boil the less head retention you will have. But I expect that effect to be less than the effect hat hops and fermentation, for exampe, have on head retention.

Offline majorvices

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2009, 06:30:53 AM »
Note he says the longer boil had better head retention - which is backwards (so is the fact that the higher fermentation temps had better head retention - I'm about to give up!  :P) lol.

+1 to you needing more consistent process. Start off with the fermentation.
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Offline hillbillybrewer

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2009, 06:59:40 AM »
No, note that I said the longer boil had worse head retention.  Both kits were exactly the same, Northern Brewer's Cream Ale Extract kit with Wyeast 1056 (no starters).

6# LME
.75# Brumalt
.25# Biscuit Malt
1oz Cluster at 60

That's it, pretty simple as far as kits go.  Maybe my tastebuds are a little different than most, but I enjoyed the 76 degree ambient fermentation brew over the 60 degree ambient.  The 76 had a little something that the 60 was lacking, not just head.
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Offline majorvices

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2009, 07:12:15 AM »
OK, I read it wrong - the longer boil very well could have been the problem. But trust me when I say that you need to get you process ironed out better. I know you say you liked the beer fermented at 76 ambient better - but it must have been something else with your process that made the beer taste better to you. 76 degree fermentation temp is exceedingly high and, whatever the reason your head was fine on it this time don't expect it to be fine next time. That is just simply too warm. And the head aches from only drinking one or two can be excruciating!

Obviously it is your beer but this is like making bread and cooking it over a kerosene fire - it might have turned out ok this time but don't expect consistent results at these temps.
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Offline hillbillybrewer

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2009, 07:27:32 AM »
Yeah I kinda figured this was an off-chance occurrence, I suppose the beer gods took pity on it being my "return from a long hiatus" brew,  I am going to try some smaller half batches fermented a bit too warm though.  For what it's worth, I always wait and pitch at the fermenting temp.
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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2009, 08:19:33 AM »
Even though it might be true that longer boils hurt head retention, a 60 and even a 90 min boil should not lead to non existent head. The Major is correct in suggesting that you get your fermentation temp under control first. I would. however, have expected the warm fermented batch to have the a worse head retention.

Kai


Offline hillbillybrewer

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2009, 11:38:40 AM »
That would seem most logical.  I'm gonna do some split batches of the kit in the future, 1 at higher temps (indoor) 1 at normal temps (basement).  Glad I have a concrete basement, I've been monitoring temps down there for the last month and half now and temp has been pretty much a steady 60 degrees.  Not sure what winter is gonna do though.
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Offline Travis

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2010, 01:02:05 PM »
Not sure how you are aerating your wort before pitching, but any method that results in a large foamy froth (i.e. pouring from bucket to bucket, shaking carboy, aquarium pump w/air stone) uses up some of the head forming proteins before fermentation begins.

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2010, 01:33:18 PM »
Not sure how you are aerating your wort before pitching, but any method that results in a large foamy froth (i.e. pouring from bucket to bucket, shaking carboy, aquarium pump w/air stone) uses up some of the head forming proteins before fermentation begins.

While I’m not saying that this statement is incorrect I wonder how much the quantitative impact actually is. I’d what difference in head retention can we expect if we eliminate all foaming (including fermentation Kraeusen) during the brewing process compared to a traditional process where you have foaming in the BK and the fermenter.

Kai

Offline dhacker

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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2010, 06:47:54 AM »
Not sure how you are aerating your wort before pitching, but any method that results in a large foamy froth (i.e. pouring from bucket to bucket, shaking carboy, aquarium pump w/air stone) uses up some of the head forming proteins before fermentation begins.

I remember hearing something along these lines way back and guess I never gave it much consideration. However, if it COULD be quantified, we might find that a very slow, deliberate wort oxygenation might be preferential over a more robust, wort foaming blast before pitching with respect to head retention. Also, could it be that although less efficient at dissolving O2 into solution, bigger O2 bubbles that lead to less foam could be better for ultimate HR compared to the foam producing sintered SS stone? 
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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2010, 09:35:43 AM »
This article http://byo.com/stories/article/indices/35-head-retention/697-getting-good-beer-foam-techniques mentions foam positive elements being able to be "used up" and not available later for foam production.  You should read the whole thing, but below is an excerpt.

"Lastly, homebrewers who keg their beer should be aware that foam positive molecules can get “used up” when foam is created. Thus, if you shake your keg to carbonate it, you may be dipping into your pool of foam makers for your beer.

Some commercial brewers use a silicone anti-foam during fermentation to limit foaming during fermentation. This allows them to fill their tanks higher, but also minimizes “wasted” beer foam produced during fermentation. The silicone is later removed via filtration. (Note that beer foam and yeast kraeusen are not the same thing.) "
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Re: Does length of boil affect head retention with extracts?
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2010, 10:41:08 AM »
All these articles make qualitative statements with little information how much negative effect there actually is.

Kai