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Crystal malt is said to positively influence head retention / foam stability in the final beer. Why is that?

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if I had to guess, I'd think it has to do with protein content, maybe? –  theraccoonbrew Dec 6 '10 at 21:30
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Crystal malts add both head retention and body to the beer, they do this by adding dextrines and complex proteins. The crystal or caramel malts are produced by kilning the grains with up to 50% moisture content in the barley creating a crystalline sugar structure inside the grain's hull. They are undermodified malt and have very little diastatic power due to the amount of moisture present in the kilning process. They add complex sugars to the wort that are not fermentable thus producing residual sweetness.

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But to what total extent of all things that contribute to head retention is crystal malt responsible. There are likely other foam positive things to focus on; because many styles have little to no crystal in the grist, yet they have excellent head retention. So the contribution by crystal malts on head retention is small in the big picture. Doesn't change that NB Chris provided a great answer to the question asked though. –  brewchez Dec 7 '10 at 20:17
    
The primary contributors to head retention are high molecular weight proteins and isohumulones which are alpha acids from hops. –  Northern Brewer Chris Dec 7 '10 at 20:54
    
Great answer. Thanks. But what is the connection between the kilning and those proteins you mentioned? –  Tobi Dec 19 '10 at 11:17
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IF all your other brewing practices are good, adding more dextrins can help. But if you have yeast/fermentation issues, adding proteins won't help foam formation and retention.

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Better added as a comment, as this is not an answer to the question which is how does crystal contribute to head retention. Now I sound like an ass. –  brewchez Dec 7 '10 at 20:19
    
down-voted. no answer to the question. sorry. –  Tobi Dec 19 '10 at 11:15
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