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Will maltodextrin and dry hopping post fermentation help a no head/thin beer? The beer has been on 8lbs of CO2 at 34F for over a month (should be around 2 volumes). (I'm guessing it was my experiment with store bought rolled oats versus flaked oats from the brew shop.)

The beer tastes good (I don't detect any off flavors) it's just very thin and has about as much head as a glass of water. I clear all of my kegs with PBW and rinsed with StarSan. I've never has this issue with my previous beers.

Recipe (5 gallon batch)

  • 7 lbs Pale Base Malt
  • 1 lbs Wheat
  • 1 lbs rolled oats
  • 1 lbs orange blossom
  • 1 oz Styrian Goldings
  • 1 oz dried grapefruit peel
  • 1 oz coriander seed
  • 1 package Belgian Wit Ale Yeast (White Labs)

Schedule

  1. Mash at 150F until conversion complete (apx 2 hours)
  2. Mash out at 168F (run off for apx 1 hour collecting 7 gallons of Wort)
  3. Add Hops at first wort (gravity 1.042)
  4. Get wort to boil (total boil 1 hour)
  5. 5 minutes to end of boil add coriander and grapefruit peel
  6. Chill at flame out
  7. At 70F run out to fermenter
  8. Stir in honey and oxygenate wort (OG 1.055)
  9. Pitch yeast
  10. Let ferment for 3 weeks (FG 1.005)
  11. Keg, crash, carb (9 psi @ 34 F) age 3 weeks.

After MD

enter image description here

Pilsner on the Left, Wit in Question on the Right.

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Maltodextrin will have an affect on body also the head formation and retention, dry hopping may help foam stability as in increase in iso-humulones enhance head retention. I am not sure how dry hopping will affect the iso-humulone levels.

Be warned with the Dextrins, if you have got a few too many tannins in the mix then addition of dextrins may form a chill haze.

I would take a pint sample and try adding a little of the dextrins and see how it works.

Another trick you can try is use some N2 in the gas mix for your keg. N2 gives far better foam stability than CO2 as it has a lower solubility in water.

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  • I intended it to be a hazy Belgian Wheat so if I get some haze I don't think I will be too heart broken. Would that pint tell me anything about the chill haze of just if a head if going to form? – Matthew Whited May 25 '16 at 14:59
  • If you mix in the dextrins, you should see if it will hold foam better, also you can see if it gets a fuller body, and if you leave it in the fridge overnight you should see if it has a chill haze. But if you are going cloudly anyway then I wouldn't worry about the chill haze at all. – Mr_road May 25 '16 at 15:02
  • Right now it's amazingly clear... but it's also like malty water. – Matthew Whited May 25 '16 at 15:03
  • makes sense, if you leave it for a while to ferment out a bit you may end up with something with a bit more head and body but if you want it now, you'll have to live with the lack of head. And just drink tasty but headless beer? – Mr_road May 25 '16 at 15:35
  • It's been kegged and cold crashed for a month. I am thinking of pulling the keg and pitching some fresh yeast. The gravity was spot on for the finished beer (It's 5.2% alcohol). I should probably pull a pint first and see if the MD alone will add the body and head I'm looking for. – Matthew Whited May 25 '16 at 16:29
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Since no one has really touched on this part of the question:

'Will [...] dry hopping post fermentation help a no head/thin beer?'

No, and in fact dry hopping would probably only serve to make things worse.

As Mr_road notes, it's the isomerized alpha-acids that contribute to foam stability. Dry hopping adds basically no isomerized alpha acids since isomerization requires high heat or pH or a catalyst to take place and the dry-hopping (and hop storage) environment should provide none of these.

What dry-hopping contributes is primarily essential oils, which will dissolve in the ethanol in the beer. As with any kind of lipid, these oils should do nothing but decrease your foam stability, though it's not likely to be a huge effect.

Aside from the essential oil fraction, dry-hopping will also provide water-soluble tannins, or polyphenols, which, in high concentrations, may contribute astringency to your beer. It might help the flavor, depending on your taste, but the first thing that comes to my mind when thinking of a remedy for a thin beer is definitely not adding astringency.

While I'm at it, here are a few other things you might consider as being potential causes of a lacking head:

  • Assuming you meant your starting gravity was 1.055 and it finished at 1.005 (not 1.55 and 1.05) that's ~6.6% ABV. Alcohol has a fairly strong foam-negative effect above just a few % ABV.
  • 10% oats in your recipe may have contributed considerable lipid to the wort, and its survival into the finished beer would depend on your particular methods, especially for wort separation (running off) and trub separation (knocking out). Doing either over-rapidly or carelessly could lead to elevated levels in the final wort and subsequent beer. Grapefruit peel and coriander seeds are also fairly rich in lipids/oils.
  • Your chosen yeast strain and fermentation parameters (pitching rate, oxygenation, temperature &c) may have had an effect: yeast-derived fusel alcohols, esters and fatty acids can have a foam-negative effect. Since you used an ester-y (Belgian) strain, especially if you fermented warm, this may have contributed to the issue. Also, high levels of simple sugar at the beginning of fermentation (from the honey) may have effected the yeast's fermentation performance further.
  • Since you describe it as thin, I'd have to assume it's probably not as viscous as other, more full-bodied beers. Viscosity is one of the more important determinants of foam-stability (as viscous liquid drains more slowly from the foam), and is probably roughly related to finishing gravity. This is the reason adding maltodextrin does increase head retention.

None of these are necessarily the cause of this lackluster head, but some combination of them together may have helped create the issue.

This turned into a much longer answer than I had intended, but I hope you find some of it useful anyway.

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  • It was my first time boosting those "fatty" adjuncts. I guess I'll need to try another batch with less experimentation :) ... Thanks for the info. – Matthew Whited Jun 21 '16 at 14:07
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The style of beer you described in comments "belgian wheat" would by a mix style, but both a witbier and Belgians are known for effervescent carbonation almost twice the carbonation you mentioned (2 vol)

2 volumes is really low and won't form much if any head at low elevations, for any style.

Bump it up to 3.2-3.8 volumes 16psi at 34°F to get 3.2

This will at least give a head, then you can work on head retention ingredients and methods for the next batch if needed.

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  • I used to run at 15psi but I do not want that much foam (and it also caused guests to make a mess in my kegerator.) I have 5 other beers on tap (they are carbed perfectly) and this is somewhere around my 12th keg brewed and the 6th time I made my own recipe. – Matthew Whited May 31 '16 at 13:46
  • There was no body in this beer at all. This recipe had wheat, barley, rolled oats, and honey. Only things that I can think that would have killed the body were from reducing the hops (only once ounce at first wort), using rolled oats instead of flaked or adding too much coriander/grapefruit peel to the boil (around an ounce of each for a 7 gallon boil). Other than that this is almost the same as my pilsner (except instead of wheat and rolled oats I used flaked rice and flaked oats.) The pilsner also had more hops. – Matthew Whited May 31 '16 at 13:47
  • Taken from BrewersFriend - Carbonation Guidelines by Style: Belgian Ales 1.9 - 2.4 volumes vs German Wheat Beer 3.3 - 4.5 volumes – Mr_road May 31 '16 at 15:50
  • @MatthewWhited sounds like a low mash temperature or too thin of a mash or both. Rolled and flaked are the same thing, the grain is "rolled" to flaten into "flakes" to give more surface area. – Evil Zymurgist May 31 '16 at 21:43
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    I’m not worried about the BJCP guide lines (but if you really care I’ll say Belgian White though it’s the same thing as Belgian Wheat or Witbier.) From the mouth feel of this beer I could tell that even going to 60PSI+ would not add foam. There is plenty of fizz in the beer at it is. I'm really just looking for something (if anything) I that may be added post fermentation to add body. My research lead me to the idea of maltodextrin (never using it before I was curious for a process that wouldn’t make things worse.) The problem is not sanitation, brew schedule, or detergents. – Matthew Whited May 31 '16 at 23:45
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Malto-dexrin will increase the body, but it will only improve head retention if you also have sufficient medium-length proteins in your beer. There's a BYO article on this topic here https://byo.com/stories/issue/item/191-beer-foam-advanced-brewing.

To improve head retention without increasing the body you could use Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA). It's otherwise known as Stablifoam or Beer Heading Liquid.

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  • I was reading about PGA... Where can I buy it? – Matthew Whited Jun 21 '16 at 14:04
  • I bought mine in the UK - this stuff - the-home-brew-shop.co.uk/acatalog/Beer_Heading_Liquid.html. In the US I see that BSG have it branded as Biofoam , but unfortunately only in 55lb drums. If you google for "heading liquid" or "heading compound" you might find somewhere that will ship it to you. On a different tack, I notice that your apparent attenuation is 91%. That's very high for the yeast you used. I suspect you had a wild yeast infection - possibly from the honey. – Kevin Sharp Jun 21 '16 at 20:43
  • Yeah, I really don't need 55 gallons :) It is possible I had cross contamination on the yeast. I was fermenting mead and wine at the same time. I may try to find some of the PGA but and now I know to not try so much new at the same time. – Matthew Whited Jun 21 '16 at 21:10
  • It's worth noting that PGA only protects foam from the damaging, foam-negative effects of lipids. It does not actually add anything to the beer that contributes in a foam-positive way. So this would only help if the problem was excessive lipids, rather than lack of foam-positives (proteins, iso-alpha acids &c.) – Franklin P Combs Jul 25 '16 at 15:06
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    @Franklin P Combs Whist PGA does protect against the foam negative effects of lipids, it is (in combination with polypeptides) foam positive. "Mechanism of Beer Foam Stabilization by Proppylene Glycol Alginate" Jackson et al, 1980 concludes ... "...that the foam stabilizing action of PGA is due to interaction of the PGA with the bubble walls. The interaction is electrostatic and involves the carboxyl groups on the glycol alginate and amino groups on the peptides in the bubble wall. This binding of PGA to the wall also serves to protect the foam against the harmful effects of lipid." – Kevin Sharp Jul 25 '16 at 22:30

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