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Recent Poor Head/retention In Dark Ales. Wtf

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mje1980

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My last two dark ales have had pretty ordinary head, and head retention. I am not really sure why. Some of my lighter beers have suffered, but not like darker beers. The only difference lately has been that I add more cal chl than cal sulphate, but I do this in lighter malty beers without issue. I never add citric to dark beers, which I add to all my light beers. Can't see that affecting anything head related. My mild had a 15minute rest @71c, the porter just a standard single infusion. The mild also had flaked barley. Got no idea. In a galaxy pale, I added 5% carapils, which made a big difference. I never had to resort to this for decent head, but it looks like i'll be using more of it til I figure it out. If I had a choice of brilliantly clear beer with no head, or muddy beer with good lacing, i'd choose the latter. I can handle not having brilliantly clear beer, but poor head retention and lacing piss me off. Ideas??, and any other additives,etc I can add to help???? I want good head again!!!!
 

SJW

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I was only thinking about this last night. Without going into a Braumeister sales pitch I have noticed how consistent the head has been on my first 7 brews. Vert think and dense, like whipped cream. I did a couple hundred brews on a 3 v system and could never understand why I could brew the same beer twice and one would have great head and the other non. I put it down to the way the BM works that eliminates small changes that are had to control with any other system. Like the rate at which the mash temp rises, strike water temp, boil ect.
In short I dont know the answer to your question, but there are so many parts to an all grain brew day that it could be one simple little thing that could be effecting the head on the final product.

Steve
 

Fourstar

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The biggest factor there sounds like lack of dextrin considering the carapils made an immediate difference.

milds would suffer most of the time as they typically have a lower extract, hence lower dextrins in suspension. all light beers ive made in the 1.030-.035 region have suffered with their foam. More dextrin/unfermentables and a higher mash temp should resolve this. As for the mild i would have had my beta rest short (20 mins) and the alpha focused rest (71deg) for 40 mins~.
 

manticle

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Only beers recently that I've struggled to maintain head in are a coconut porter that has a reasonalbe amount of visible coconut fat in each bottle and two beers (one pale, one dark) that separately carmelise a small portion of the wort during the boil. I have caramelised previously with no issue and they do seem to be improving (especially the pale) but 90% of retention issues in my hose coincidentally have a caramel portion so I figure there is some relationship - maybe the degree or caramelisation?

Hop oils will help so maybe try a small portion of late hops (I realise the beers you describe are not meant to be particularly hoppy).

A short 55 rest and a short 72 rest seem to give most of my beers, bar those described above, great retention and formation (sometimes too much).

Presuming you've been through all the usual crap - clean, well rinsed, residue free glass, different temps etc.

If carapils is working, with all else being equal, then it suggests dextrins are absent. However, I would have expected a 71 rest to accomodate this, depending on how long the lower sacch rest was. Maybe shift the balance between low sacch and high sacch/dextrin in favour of the dextrin.

The next bit is taken from my reading rather than direct experience so take with a grain of salt:

Zinc will also contribute to foam stability - do you use nutrient or other zinc additions?

Don't believe it relates to head retention at all but sulphate and dark beers are not recommended by some. I use chloride only with my stouts and porters.

Some proteins that contribute to haze may also contribute to foam stability so maybe try inclusion of some cold break if you are separating. Those beers don't need to be served super cold anyway.

Higher protein malts and not using adjunct/lots of adjuncts should theoretically lead to better foam stability.
How long are you boiling for? Long boil times (not sure how long but presumably a fair bit longer than the average 60-90 minutes) may contribute to the breakdown of some hop acids that affect foam stability.
 

mje1980

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Steve, if you send me yours i'll definately put it to good use!.

Fourstar, i like my milds on the dry side, and usually mash in the mid 60's. So far haven't had much trouble with crap head, or retention, just recently. The lower gravity beers usually have a smaller head, but will have some kind of lacing. The porter im drinking now ( which is 5.9% ) pours with a nice head, then dissipates pretty quick.

Also, my milds have usually 10% crystals, which should add some kind of head, and retention surely. I also dont add any koppafloc to the dark ones, although, these days half the time i dont add it to the light ones either. Need to get more consistent i think.

Sure is annoying. Will have to start taking very close details on Salts, Mash temps and times etc.
 

mje1980

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Only beers recently that I've struggled to maintain head in are a coconut porter that has a reasonalbe amount of visible coconut fat in each bottle and two beers (one pale, one dark) that separately carmelise a small portion of the wort during the boil. I have caramelised previously with no issue and they do seem to be improving (especially the pale) but 90% of retention issues in my hose coincidentally have a caramel portion so I figure there is some relationship - maybe the degree or caramelisation?

Hop oils will help so maybe try a small portion of late hops (I realise the beers you describe are not meant to be particularly hoppy).

A short 55 rest and a short 72 rest seem to give most of my beers, bar those described above, great retention and formation (sometimes too much).

Presuming you've been through all the usual crap - clean, well rinsed, residue free glass, different temps etc.

If carapils is working, with all else being equal, then it suggests dextrins are absent. However, I would have expected a 71 rest to accomodate this, depending on how long the lower sacch rest was. Maybe shift the balance between low sacch and high sacch/dextrin in favour of the dextrin.

The next bit is taken from my reading rather than direct experience so take with a grain of salt:

Zinc will also contribute to foam stability - do you use nutrient or other zinc additions?

Don't believe it relates to head retention at all but sulphate and dark beers are not recommended by some. I use chloride only with my stouts and porters.

Some proteins that contribute to haze may also contribute to foam stability so maybe try inclusion of some cold break if you are separating. Those beers don't need to be served super cold anyway.

Higher protein malts and not using adjunct/lots of adjuncts should theoretically lead to better foam stability.
How long are you boiling for? Long boil times (not sure how long but presumably a fair bit longer than the average 60-90 minutes) may contribute to the breakdown of some hop acids that affect foam stability.
Dont use nutrient or zinc. So far no need. Yeah i ususally keep the sulphate low, or out of dark beers. Boiling for 90, as with all my beers.

I can try both the proetien, and glyco protein rests to see. Been mucking with them, but with no real consistency. I might try a single sachh rest, but add both the short 55 and 72 to see if the head improves. I really need a heat stick!!!, though in a single batch i can do a few different steps. Double batch i can usually do a Hochkurz type step.

Cheers mate.

Ahhh, fun and games ey?!
 

wessmith

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Dont use nutrient or zinc. So far no need. Yeah i ususally keep the sulphate low, or out of dark beers. Boiling for 90, as with all my beers.

I can try both the proetien, and glyco protein rests to see. Been mucking with them, but with no real consistency. I might try a single sachh rest, but add both the short 55 and 72 to see if the head improves. I really need a heat stick!!!, though in a single batch i can do a few different steps. Double batch i can usually do a Hochkurz type step.

Cheers mate.

Ahhh, fun and games ey?!
What liquor to grist ratio have you been using in the 3V setup?

Wes
 

mje1980

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Hey wes i've been using 2.5 litres per kilo since 04. I have gone down to 2ltr/kg for step mashing recently, but i dont really step mash dark beers.
 

mje1980

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I have recently moved in the last 12 months, and also struggled with an infection around the start of the year if that info helps any. Not far from the old place, so the water supply is the same, and the house im in now is only a few years "younger" than where i was. Probably useless info, but hey, im keen to sort it out!
 

manticle

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Before stuffing about too much, I would stick with playing around with the time of the dextrinous rest. If you are mashing low or mashing low for too long it may be as simple as that.

Try 62 for 10 and 68 for the remainder and see if that does it. 72 if you can be buggered doing another rest for another 10. Leave everything else the same.
 

mje1980

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Ok, i might give that a go. Its almost the opposite of my koelsh mash schedule! ( 62-45, 69-15 ).

Surely there'll be shitloads of dextrins in there haha.
 

stux

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Dirty glasses? Thermometer drifting out of calibration?
 

mje1980

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Glasses are washed in the dishwasher, which has given consistently good results. Thermo is a mashmaster, so should be ok though might need re calibrating possibly. Lighter beers seem to be less affected, if at all, so dont think its an issue.

I have grabbed my cheapo ALDI dremel, and etched one of my beloved nonics. Seems to have made a small difference. THe galaxy pale definately seems to be more "lively". The porter, maybe a little better head formation, but no real difference in retention. The mild seems to have a little bit better head, and lacing. Starting to drink a few so anymore testing tonight would probably be biased by alcomahol hehe.
 

wessmith

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Hey wes i've been using 2.5 litres per kilo since 04. I have gone down to 2ltr/kg for step mashing recently, but i dont really step mash dark beers.
It could be that the current batch of base malt has changed slightly and your (very) low L/G ratio is not allowing good gelatinisation and conversion. When the Braumeister boys report "good to excessive" head it rings bells for me. A L/G of 4:1 or so is most likely the cause as it (the higher L/G ratio) allows for a more even temperature avoiding any hot or dry pockets of grist. Gelatinisation occurs more quickly and the diastase is better distributed. 2.5 L/G really only works well with English ale malts and a fairly course crush in single infusion "floating mash" regimes. Try 3:1 or even 3.5:1 and see if that makes a difference. As an aside, I would never drop below 3:1 whether brewing at home on a small system or on a 500 or 1000 ltr commercial brewlength.

Wes
 

mje1980

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Cheers wes, will try it out. I pretty much only use UK malts for ales
 

mje1980

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So, next up, im doing a brown ale, and will be going with 3l/kg as per wes, and mashing 62-15mins, 68-45mins, 72-15mins, as per manticle. Will report back when im drinking it.
 

mje1980

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Ok, so the first batch of brown is half carbed, and im having a sip now. The head retention so far is pretty good, and for a half carbed ale, there is still a good covering with about an inch left in the glass, and some lacing all the way. Much better than previous efforts. Tomorrow, it will be fully carbed, so im gunna hazard a guess it'll be a little better, at least the same. Very very happy guys, muchos gracias. On another note, i found my koppafloc, and for a beer that's been in the keg only 30 hours or so, its quite clear. This brown ale will be on tap ( batch 1 of a double ), and also a beer engine ( Batch 2 ) for my upcoming RAF. I must say, i am pretty damn happy with it. If i wasn't going to night shift i'd be "sampling" a few more hehehe.

Much appreciated guys.
 

mje1980

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So, a few more batches later, im going with 3ltr/kg as opposed to 2.5 ( in all beers ), and also adding koppafloc to all beers, and including a 15 minute 72c rest. The beers have had very good head and also lacing. Woo hoo!. The only issue i have had is mistakenly adding koppafloc at 30 minutes to go, rather than 15, which has meant the mild is slightly hazier than normal, head and retention is fine.

Cheers for the advice guys!
 

kdaust

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Have you tried any with the L/kg only, or the temperature steps only, to see if it was one or the other causing you grief? Or have you done both new things each time?
 

mje1980

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I just did all the changes. Not very scientific i know, but it has worked well, so im happy haha.
 

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