I recently made a Belgium Ale, which was slow to start fermenting, but once it got going it finished fine. It cleared in a secondary and was bottled using 5oz of corn sugar for the 5 gallon batch. It's in the cellar which runs from to low to higher 60's depending on the time of day (a previous batch carbonated just fine in those conditions).

After one week I open a test bottle, it has a little gas pop, tasted ok, but was flat. Another week and the bottle popped well, was poured into a glass and got a head consistent to soda, which dissipated rapidly, leaving the beer tasting ok, but pretty flat. It seems that CO2 is being made in the bottle, does it just take longer to go into solution? Does it just need more time to create a head? Thanks for any insight.

  • When you say flat, do you mean no bubbles or just no head?
    – Philippe
    Jan 13, 2017 at 15:39
  • This post goes back a bit, but just no head. In future batches someone recommended adding maltodextrin to the boil for body. I did that and got a more consistant body and head retension. I was new at that post and not sure if I just got better at brewing or if the maltodextrin made a difference. Either way beer is much better.
    – Quentin
    Jan 13, 2017 at 23:47

6 Answers 6


Take a look at this BeerSmith article: http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/06/25/enhancing-beer-head-retention-for-home-brewers/

The article makes the following points:

Foam is the result of CO2 bubbles rising through the beer. These bubbles attach themselves to substances in the beer and form a skin around the bubble

Head stability depends on the presence of substances with low surface tension in the beer which can form stable elastic bubbles. The two primary contributors to head retention are certain high molecular weight proteins and isohumulones (alpha acids from hops). Therefore beers with more proteins that are highly hopped will have higher head retention.

The glass may even be the culprit as its cleanliness may have something to do with head retention, and residual dish soap may also have an effect.

With my experience, at least 3 weeks always gave me a nice bottle conditioned beer in which the CO2 is dissolved nicely with great head retention, although I tend to use a lot of hops in my brews. I have also had good results with Munton's Kreamy X, which uses propylene glycol for head retention. I've had up to a 1.5" head in a spotless tulip glass with a bottle conditioned beer using Kreamy X, and the head stuck around, diminishing until the last sip.

  • It's been 3 weeks and periodically opening a beer every few days has shown some improvement in a head, although retention is still a factor, doesn't taste bad, so at least it won't go to waste.
    – Quentin
    Dec 31, 2013 at 22:00
  • I was about to suggest the use of Carafoam or Wheat and some Hops, but that is all in the article. Good read.
    – Philippe
    Jan 16, 2017 at 14:28
  • I personally found this link more informative - particularly about the contributions of viscosity and the reasons for glycoproteins being key in retaining head because of its molecular structure being hydrophobic on one end and hydrophilic on the other byo.com/article/fabulous-foam Feb 26, 2019 at 12:45

I must admit, I am not an expert in home brewing but I do work in the pub trade and whenever we encounter customers whom have problems with beer head retention or glass lacing, the first place we generally investigate is their glasses and glass washing equipment.

Most primarily, we look at the quality of their glass washer and how it is debris build-up on glasses. Often we find that with well used glasses that they appear clean to the eye, but on further analysis they are suffering from limescale deposits and build up.

There is a couple of images here which might help you to see what we normally encounter:


  • Excellent article, it would be useful to mirror this somewhere in case the source is moved or goes down
    – G-.
    Aug 10, 2017 at 12:31

Jedi Jay brough up a good point about the glass, possibly being not rinsed well and having residual soap. this could also happen when cleaning bottles. I once allowed my bottles to soak in a bleach solution that was too strong and didnt do a good job of rinsing, under the false impression that the bleach would evaporate on the drying tree. Let me tell ya, I had 2 cases of flat blondes.


This question has a couple answers already, the article linked to by Jedi Jay is a good one.

If you really want to go into depth on FOAM quality, Dr Charile Bamforth wrote this mighty tome on the subject: FOAM: Practical Guides for Beer Quality


A simple trick I use is to add 1-3% wheat to the grain bill. The proteins in the wheat produce a nice, stable head.


Belgian, please.

There are seemingly a billion inputs to head and carbonation tendencies. Ingredients, caramelization, adjuncts, amount of sugar at bottling, glass cleanliness, brand of dishwash all contribute. As much as I hate to give such an open answer, I think the only real path is to experiment more, controlling variables between batches.

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