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I've tried looking for duplicates to this question, but can't quite find a single question that covers it, so here goes (pls let me know if I've missed one)

Last night I tasted the first bottle of my first ever homebrew! It was just an extract kit (Coopers Real Ale), and I was quite pleased by it. The only thing that surprised me was the complete lack of head when I poured the beer. The beer was carbonated, at least reasonably I thought, and tasted good (I think), so at the moment all I can think of is that the glass was the problem. (Brand new beer glasses, but washed in the dishwasher.... could the rinse aid be the culprit?) I only bottled a week ago (so 6 days conditioning before I opened), but like I say, the carbonation seemed good to me.

Is there something else that might have caused this?

EDIT: Thanks for the advice so far, going to wait a little longer and see if further conditioning sorts me out...
Bottle #2: cleaned a glass by hand, and bottle had an extra 2 days conditioning, and I may have "cheated" and poured a little more vigorously :) Muuuuch better head, not much retention, but certainly no worse than the local mass-produced lagers. Holding thumbs for bottle #3...

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Yes rinse aid could be the problem here but before we jump there I think you need to wait a bit longer. After six days there is a slim chance your beer isn't even fully carbonated yet.

What I've found is that it takes a at least a week, but usually two to actually develop a nice tight head. For a while you may have OK carbonation and loose big bubbles that look nothing like a typical head. In this case I say give it another week (or even two, because why not).

Head is a product of proteins in the beer, and if you pitched good healthy yeast you should be okay in the long run. While glassware is important, I don't think its your issue after only 6 days conditioning.

  • Gah, more waiting and less drinking! It occurs to me that I may have picked the wrong hobby... – baldric Apr 30 '13 at 13:41
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    It's always like that with the first batch or two until you build up stock of beer from previous batches, then the waiting doesn't seem quite so bad since you've already got some beer to drink. – mdma May 1 '13 at 13:32
  • Thanks Jared. I'm still trying bottles periodically, but so far it appears as it is just more time that is needed (and maybe the glass a little too...) – baldric May 2 '13 at 12:27
  • Don't waste too many bottles doing that. I would give it a full week before I popped another top, but that's just me :). I understand though, I've popped my fair share of bottles early. – Jared Meyering May 2 '13 at 13:21
  • What's the word? – Jared Meyering May 8 '13 at 1:34
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Rinse aid could be the culprit, the main killer of head however, is oils, any oils. My first extract kit did not have noticeable head either, and a lot of my beers now, still don't have head, because I'm focusing on the body.

This that can help help are carapils/carafoam speciality grain, but these should be used to make beer better, not as a focus point.

EDIT: There's a lot of reasons for no head, I just went for the common one.

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Head formation and retention is mostly a factor of medium-length proteins in the beer. Extract kits are notoriously low in these medium-length proteins. This is why kit beers (such as the one you brewed) tend to have the head retention of a class of coke. :)

One way to increase the beer's head is to add a lot of dry hops to the fermenter. This helps a little, but it won't get you to the kind of head that a full grain beer has.

There are "heading agents" which can be added to a beer kit to provide more head formation and retention. These are usually based on iron/magnesium salts, gums and alginates. Ask for it at your LHBS. Commercial products such as Stabifoam are generally used for beers with a high rice and corn content (which suffer from the same deficit in medium-length proteins and other foam-related ingredients).

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