Author Topic: How do I improve head retention and get smaller bubbles? Any practical tips?  (Read 9094 times)

Offline Slurk

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Hi all,
In my last 8-10 batches I have used small amounts of wheat  to improve head retention (most often flaked wheat),
however  without noticeable effect.
Last weekend I compared my dry hopped IPA with a new type of beer from the Norwegian brewery Nøgne Ø (their dry hopped GPA = Global Pale Ale with 13 different hops from all over the world). To my big surprise our beers were very similar in colour, taste and aroma. However the bubbles in the GPA were smaller/tinier than in my beer.

The amount of wheat I used in my batches was 8 - 15% of the total grain bill.
I bottle my beer and use a carbonation factor between 2,6 - 2,8 (based on 60F).

My questions:
- How do I improve head retention without changing the style of the beer?
- How do I get smaller bubbles?

All practical suggestions are very welcome!

R, Slurk
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Offline Maine Homebrewer

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For head retention I use wheat malt, not flaked. No idea on bubble size. Maybe they're using nitrogen like Guinness?
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Offline brewfun

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Head retention is its own special science. Ph.D.s have been earned on the subject. The thing to keep in mind is that the molecules that form head do so only once. Then they're done.

First, eliminate the common things that are foam negative:
Oils/soap residues
pH above 4.7 (finished beer)
pH below 3.8 (finished beer)
hot break
low CO2 lamination
Excessive foaming, churning during fermentation and bottling.
Repeated gassing and degassing kegged beer.
Oxidation
Unclean glassware
High ethanol level
Low ethanol level (the optimum is right around 4.5 to 5.5% abv)
High amounts of fusel alcohols

I find that carafoam malt does an excellent job, better than carapils. Wheat is great, too. I happen to use 5% 6-Row in lighter beers. All of these have a common contribution to foamstand: small protein's.

Head retention is a balancing act of surface tension. The protiens have hydrophobic (repels water) and hydrophyllic (attaches to water) parts. These attract and move water from a place of high concentration to lower and allow it to stay there (a bubble). As surface tension collapses, the head falls and the bubbles become larger.

Hop isomers also are hydrophobic and move themselves to the head, and enhance head retention by working with the proteins to suspend water in the bubble surface.

This is just a thumbnail overview. The biggest thing is to eliminate foaming, wherever you can.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2013, 09:50:31 AM by brewfun »
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Offline RiverBrewer

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+1  Great reply Brewfun
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Offline mcbeer

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I would try bottle conditioning at a lower temp

Offline Slurk

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Thanks guys!
And Brewfun, +1 for your great and detailed reply :)
Ad Fundum!

Ready to drink: Slurk Fjellbrygg, Slurk Foeyn Ale, Slurk Agurk (Cucumber Wit), Slurk Belgian Blonde, Slurk Eng (Raspberry Wit), Slurk Hav (Seaweed Wit)
Aging: Slurk Whirled White Wheat (Wit)
Fermenting:
Next brew: Slurk Hav

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Offline Slurk

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KernelCrush, +1
Excellent and very interesting pod cast!
These guys (John Palmer, Jamil Zainasheff), don't skim the boil in order to improve head retention. I always skim, I was learned to do so, but after this pod cast I would like to try "not skimming" the next time.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2013, 01:56:00 PM by Slurk »
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Ready to drink: Slurk Fjellbrygg, Slurk Foeyn Ale, Slurk Agurk (Cucumber Wit), Slurk Belgian Blonde, Slurk Eng (Raspberry Wit), Slurk Hav (Seaweed Wit)
Aging: Slurk Whirled White Wheat (Wit)
Fermenting:
Next brew: Slurk Hav

Offline RiverBrewer

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Welcome to the Just Say No skimmers club!
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There are a lot of other good podcasts on that site, I am sure you saw them Slurk.  The older ones I think are better, before they became biased by their sponsors. 

Offline Slurk

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There are a lot of other good podcasts on that site, I am sure you saw them Slurk.  The older ones I think are better, before they became biased by their sponsors.

Yes, absolutely! This weekends goal :)
Ad Fundum!

Ready to drink: Slurk Fjellbrygg, Slurk Foeyn Ale, Slurk Agurk (Cucumber Wit), Slurk Belgian Blonde, Slurk Eng (Raspberry Wit), Slurk Hav (Seaweed Wit)
Aging: Slurk Whirled White Wheat (Wit)
Fermenting:
Next brew: Slurk Hav

Offline BILLY BREW

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I have great results with head retention and lacing by using 4-8oz of carmel crystal and or dextrin with my grain bill. I'm just not a wheat fan..but flaked oats will help to make stronger skins on your bubbles.
Brewfun hit all the other possibilities, with a vengence, well done sir!
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