What can I put in beer for head retention?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

When it comes to improving head retention in beer, there are several ingredients you can use that can greatly enhance the foam stability and longevity. Two key components that contribute to head retention are proteins and dextrins. Let’s delve into each of these ingredients and explore how they can be incorporated into beer to achieve that desired frothy head.

1. High-protein Malts:
Malts such as crystal, wheat, flaked barley, and Carafoam are known for their high protein content. These malts can significantly improve head retention due to their ability to contribute to the formation of a stable foam. Crystal malts, in particular, are widely used in brewing for their ability to enhance body, mouthfeel, and head retention. They provide a rich source of proteins that can aid in foam formation and stability.

2. Wheat:
Wheat malt is a popular choice for improving head retention in beer. It contains a high level of protein, including a specific type of protein called gliadin, which plays a crucial role in foaming properties. Wheat also contributes to a creamy texture and can enhance the overall mouthfeel of the beer.

3. Flaked Barley:
Adding flaked barley to your grain bill can significantly improve head retention. Barley contains a high amount of beta-glucans, which are long-chain carbohydrates that contribute to the formation of a stable foam. Flaked barley also adds body and smoothness to the beer, enhancing the overall drinking experience.

4. Carafoam (Cara-Pils):
Carafoam is a malt specifically designed to improve foam stability and head retention. It is a dextrin malt that provides unfermentable sugars, enhancing the body and mouthfeel of the beer. Carafoam can be used in various beer styles to improve foam structure and duration.

In addition to these specific ingredients, there are other factors to consider for optimal head retention:

– Mash Temperature: An appropriate mash temperature can help promote the formation of dextrins, which contribute to head retention. A higher mash temperature around 154-156°F (68-69°C) can favor the production of dextrins, resulting in improved foam stability.

– Hop Selection: Certain hop varieties contain compounds called polyphenols that can enhance head retention. English hops, such as Fuggles or East Kent Goldings, are known for their positive impact on foam stability. Including these hops in your recipe can help improve head retention.

– Carbonation Levels: Proper carbonation is crucial for achieving and maintaining a good head on your beer. Undercarbonated beer can result in weak and short-lived foam, while overcarbonation can cause excessive foam that dissipates quickly. Finding the right balance is essential for achieving optimal head retention.

It’s important to note that while these ingredients and techniques can greatly improve head retention, the overall beer recipe, fermentation process, and cleanliness of equipment also play vital roles. Maintaining proper brewing practices and paying attention to details such as yeast health, fermentation temperatures, and cleanliness can further enhance head retention.

Incorporating high-protein malts like crystal, wheat, flaked barley, and Carafoam can greatly improve head retention in beer. These malts provide proteins and dextrins that contribute to stable foam formation. Additionally, factors such as mash temperature, hop selection, and carbonation levels should be considered to achieve optimal head retention. So, next time you’re brewing that Irish stout, don’t forget to include these ingredients and techniques for a beautiful, long-lasting white head on your pint. Cheers!