Hot answers tagged head-retention
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 ...
Increasing head retention can done by increasing the amount of certain proteins. The easiest way to do it is to add small amount of different specialty malts to your beer. 1/2 - 1 lb. of carafoam or carapils will do the trick. Be aware though that this will increase the overall body of your beer as well.
If you have fermentation issues, all the protein laden ingredients in the world won't help you. Here's a great article that explains how fermentation relates to head formation and has experiments you can do to help diagnose your problems. http://byo.com/stories/article/indices/35-head-retention/697-getting-good-beer-foam-techniques
There are literally hundreds of factors affecting head formation and retention. Even though you've eliminated process problems, I'm going to list everything I know of that will harm head. Are you using a partial boil? If so, that could be the biggest problem, as proteins will precipitate out of solution, but then when you dilute the wort after the boil, ...
FWIW, its highly possible that the oily surface you observed is not at all related to your head and carbonation problems. I've seen that oily 'shimmer' on the top of several beers in primary, and like you, I was worried that some soap or something had gotten in there. However, I never noticed a correlation between the oily/rainbow sheen and any head ...
While Head is primarially aesthetic, you can gather some useful information about your brew process. You could possibly be under pitching or fermenting too warm leading to an increase in fusel alcohols, which have been shown to destroy the compound used to create foam. If you are cleansing with household agents, the residue from them may reduce your head, ...
A bigger factor is likely nucleation sites and suspended particles in the beer. As the beer sets and conditions there are fine particulates in the beer that settle out with the yeast. The more of these super fine particles that are in suspension the more the CO2 gets knocks out as you pour it into the glass. When they are settles out to the bottom of the ...
To quote from your own article referenced in BYO, are you sure you don't have an excess of "foam breakers". When people don't get enough foam this is usually the culprit. And that article (which is citing work from another article) does sort of lay out that the denaturing of proteins may or may not be the primary driver of foam formation; and that foam ...
Fermentation practices and pitching rates can have a large effect on beer foam, as Brandon mentioned. There's a great article here beer foam that not only describes this but also includes test you can do to help determine what the problem might be.
This is in no way from first-hand experience, but I heard from one of the guys at a local brew shop that some dish soaps can leave a coating on your glasses that will reduce the head size when pouring a beer. Its a bit of a long shot, but its worth trying an extra thorough rising before chilling/using your beer glasses.
Some people will say to add protein laden ingredients, but you already have oatmeal in there. Fermentation procedures are very important to head formation and retention. See this article: Getting Good Beer Foam: Techniques. It would help to know the recipe, also.
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