The Bartender’s Struggle With Foam

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Some customers like foam, others hate it. It’s usually a matter of preference. Most beer drinkers don’t put much thought to why beers foam, but for bartenders, this is crucial information to have.

How Foam Works

After pouring beer into a glass, the proteins in the beer attract gas and form a bubble. Then, the gas bubbles start to become creamy and continue replenishing as the bubbles rise higher. Eventually, the foam collapses.

Why Some Beers Foam More Than Others

The elements that impact foam formation are temperature, alcohol content, nitrogen, carved glassware, cleaning agents, lipstick, and fatty or greasy foods.

Higher temperature, alcohol content, and nitrogen levels lead to more foam. Glassware that is carved at the bottom also leads to more foam by attracting bubbles. In addition, the presence of invisible cleaning agents, the compounds in lipstick, and oily lips impact the stability of foam and its overall longevity.

Why Some Beers Naturally Foam More Than Others

Light draft beers are more likely to foam than darker and craft beers.

The root of this issue is tied to the makeup of light beer. Light beer is brewed by isolating an enzyme that breaks down all of the starches in barley, thus giving yeast more to eat and resulting in a beer with fewer calories. Light beer also has a lower iron content than other beers. When you compare the light beer with a very thick and hearty porter or heavier style beer, there are many ingredients in these heavier beers that allow them to withstand a slightly higher temperature without foaming excessively.  

The cause is almost always temperature-related. A light beer might foam at 39℉, while other craft beers may be able to withstand an extra degree or two without foaming because there is more oxygen for the gas to hang onto.

The Verdict on Foam

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting a glass half full of foam — obviously, that’s a bad sign. But normal levels of foam are a good thing because the bubbles store the beer’s aroma and improve the drinker’s enjoyment of the beer. Practicing proper pouring will help ensure the right amount of foam is created for each pint.

If you have any questions about foam in your draft beer system, don’t hesitate to give us a call!


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