Which ingredients used in the making of beer lead to a head that is retained, as compared to other carbonated alcoholic drinks (cider, champagne) which generally have zero head?

I'm interesting in adding a nice head to some non-beer drinks and am wondering what I might use to do this, which wouldn't add an overly strong beery flavour.

3 Answers 3


Proteins are what make head/foam. When I make cider I generally add some dry malt extract (<10% of total fermentables). This helps with some residual sweetness by holding up the final gravity some. I have also noticed slight increase in head retention vs other ciders.

Not sure if you want to go that route, but it works for me. I don't know if there is any other foam positive proteins sources you could add.

  • Head isn't created from proteins alone - you can make drinks from protein whey with carbonated water and that doesn't have a head.
    – mdma
    Dec 15, 2015 at 8:17
  • 2
    @mdma That's true, but the source and nature of the proteins is much more important to head stability than is the mere presence of any protein. The strongest foam-stabilizing proteins in beer seem to be derived from hordein, whereas whey would contain mostly casein, which may not have any stabilizing effect. Dec 15, 2015 at 17:16
  • Sorry, I meant to say that albumin-derived proteins have the strongest effect on head retention, though hordein still plays an important role. Dec 16, 2015 at 15:26
  • The proteins themselves won't make a strong head - I said whey powder, but could equally have said DME, which in hindsight would have been clearer. You need protein PLUS the alpha acids in the hops too to form the rigidity in the foam. That's why you only get a slight affect when adding just DME to cider as brewchez mentions in the answer. To to sum up - it's not just proteins in the beer but proteins+acids that help form the rigidity of the foam. You can see it - after pouring a beer, a few seconds later it forms a sheen - the foam becomes slightly glossy.
    – mdma
    Dec 30, 2015 at 10:03

The head in beer is a result of the proteins and the alpha acids from the hops combining to form complexes that create the structure needed to maintain the head of foam.

You may be able to add a small amount of hop oil and reduce other bittering components so the taste isn't adversely affected, and is still balanced by any sweetness in the beverage.

If your beverage has little protein, then adding some protein whey (either flavored or unflavored) will provide the protein required.

Experimentation will be needed here to get the right balance of ingredients to get the result required without affecting the taste.


Another way to add to head retention is to pressurize your drink with nitrogen rather than CO2, think Guiness. This aides head retention as N2 does not dissolve as easily as CO2 in water therefore leads to a longer lasting tighter foam.

I would try and mash some wheat to avoid the malty beer flavour if this is your concern. Using torrified wheat should allow you to extract the proteins you'd want for head retention, while avoiding the beer flavour. I often add 5% torrified wheat to get a nice strong head, but adding more than 15% and it is likely you will have difficulty clearing your final drink.

Another think that can destroy head formation, even if you have included some wheat or barley malts, is the extraction of fatty acids into the must/wort, minimizing the extraction of these into your solution. In mashes, minimise stirring etc.

  • I'm bottle carbonating but that's an interesting piece of information to have about using nitrogen.
    – Mr. Boy
    Dec 14, 2015 at 18:20

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