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Head Retention Issues

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  • Head Retention Issues

    I have had less than satisfactory head retention on a Belgian golden ale that we have been brewing, and can't figure out why. It is 8.5% abv, finishes at 2.5 plato, is force carbonated to 2.5 volumes CO2, and left unfiltered. We have only brewed the beer 3 times, and the end product has been very consistent, and the taste is excellent. The beer contains about 5% flaked oats and has some munich malt in addition to pilsner malt and sugar. We don't want to change the flavor profile or increase the carbonation. We regularly produce over 30 beers, and all of our beers have excellent head retention. This beer does have some significant spice additions however: 1 oz/bbl of sweet orange peel at 15 min until end of boil, and 1/2 oz/bbl of lemon peel in whirlpool. Would the citric acid in the spices be significant enough to affect head retention, or could the oils in the rind be to blame? Any thoughts would be very helpful.


    Matt Manthe
    Thomas Creek Brewery

  • #2
    Head Retention


    As far as I know, the citric acid shouldn't have such a substantial effect on the head. We brew a Witbier with two orange peel additions, and it has pretty sticky head. That beer is also loaded with wheat. It sounds like you have some sort of protein deficiency, whereas your protein isn't keeping up with the alcohol level. I've done a tripel that has roughly the same specs and adjunct grain additions, and the head on that is less than stellar.

    If you can, perhaps try a rest at 159-162F. That seems to build up some of the deficient proteins, and should give you a rather full head, assuming all other factors are kept the same. I think that George Fix wrote something about it somewhere.

    If all else fails, just remember that I don't know what I'm talking about.

    Good luck,


    • #3
      You may wish to try natural carbonation by spunding your tanks. My experience is that beers made in this manner exhibit much finer foam characteristics and mouthfeel than those force carbonated via a stone. Its less wasteful and costly too
      Last edited by burlybeer; 07-02-2009, 07:51 PM.


      • #4
        Spunding valve

        Anyone have a good source for a spunding valve?


        • #5
          Premier Stainless and Specific Mechanical both make nice spunding devices.
          Cheers & I'm out!
          David R. Pierce
          NABC & Bank Street Brewhouse
          POB 343
          New Albany, IN 47151


          • #6
            head retention

            Maybe add a little wheat to the mash?
            Good luck!!


            • #7
              Originally posted by william.heinric

              If you can, perhaps try a rest at 159-162F. That seems to build up some of the deficient proteins, and should give you a rather full head, assuming all other factors are kept the same.

              Seems very high to me. The standard proteolytic stand is between 50 and 54 C (122 - 129 F), but the time depends on the malt type (you may not need such a stand at all). A stand that is too long may well reduce the head retention because the proteolytic enzymes have too much time and chop the proteins up too much


              • #8
                Citrus oils may indeed have something to do with it.

                Also consider the ABV. 8.5% is quite high. I don't know about protein chemistry at that level but I would venture that it would be seriously affected.

                What pH is the final beer? This can also significantly affect head retention.


                Liam McKenna


                • #9
                  Looking at this I'd go for three areas to check:

                  pH (wort and final product);
                  Proteolytic stand (time & temperature);
                  Oils (I'd expect the orange to flash-off if the wort's still boiling, but adding the lemon into whirlpool may not).


                  • #10
                    What method are you using for your forced carbonation?


                    • #11
                      OK, you guys are going to kill me.

                      But...for our "macro" lager with a high percentage of sugar adjunct we add Barth & Haas Hexahop during primary filtration, solely for head retention.

                      Maybe back off a bit on your bittering hops and try this stuff. It really works great for high-adjunct head retention.


                      • #12
                        It's a fairly complicated calculation based on barrels of heavy (it's brewed high gravity) and current BUs. We target 14 BUs finished. You can find the calculation on the B&H website. Me, I just have an excel spreadsheet I plug the numbers into.

                        To make a very broad generalization, in a 370-bbl primary tank using approx. 200bbls heavy beer we'll use about 1.5# hexahop, but again these numbers always vary based on the current BUs and heavy weight.


                        • #13
                          Yeah, I know.

                          Reviving an old thread.

                          Just read in Brewing Science and Practice (Briggs et al.), in reference to thick mashes:

                          "...TSN and FAN are increased and more high molecular weight substances remain in solution, but a lower proportion of hydrophobic peptides (relative to the amount of extract) are present, causing 'high gravity' beers to have poor head retentions (Bryce et al, 1997)."

                          Thought it was relevant to the discussion albeit nearly two years later.


                          Liam McKenna