The Different Types of Beer Regulators Explained

Whether you’ve been considering taking the plunge into the world of draft beer with your own personal kegerator or you’ve been serving beer on tap for years, you may have some questions about regulators. I know I did after I got my first kegerator.

CO2 Tank & Regulator Inside a Kegerator
CO2 Tank & Regulator Inside a Kegerator

Finding the perfect CO2 or Nitrogen pressure is, perhaps, the most tedious part of dispensing draft beer. Regulators help to perfect and ease this cumbersome task.

So, kick back, pour yourself a beer and get ready to learn the differences between the many different types of beer regulators.

What is a Regulator?

A regulator is the device that connects the gas cylinder to the air tube. As one of the most important components of a kegerator, the regulator controls the flow of CO2 or Nitrogen from the cylinder through the line. If the pressure needs adjusting, the regulator is where you would make those adjustments to find the right pressure.
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Kegerator Glossary: Terms You Should Know

The world of draft beer has its own language, or so it may seem if you don’t recognize the terms being used. You may find yourself asking, They want me to connect what to the what? Whether you’re reading assembly instructions or browsing product descriptions, here are all the kegerator terms you need to know:

Keg Shell

Acid Cleaner — Removes beer and water stones from the beer lines. Not all acid cleaners are safe to use on all components, so these should only be used on your lines.

Barrier Tubing — Tubing lined with nylon or PET in order to better protect from the oxidation of your beer.

Beer Pump — A device that uses compressed air or CO2 to move beer great distances. Used when the faucet is far away from the keg.

Cleaning Pot — Also called a cleaning can. A vessel used to clean dispensing components. Once filled with cleaning solution, it is then tapped in the same fashion as a keg and dispensed through the draft system.

CO2 — In direct draw systems where the faucet is near the keg, carbon dioxide is used to push the beer from the keg.

CO2 Cylinder — Also called a CO2 tank, it’s the vessel that houses the CO2 gas mixture. Many kegerators arrive with a cylinder, but they are empty and need to be filled.

Conversion Kit — This kit contains everything you need to convert a refrigerator into a kegerator. There are different kinds of conversion kits, but they all typically include a faucet, beer line, air tube, coupler, draft tower, regulator, CO2 cylinder, and spanner wrench.
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The Ins & Outs of a Kegerator

Beer is best when served fresh, cold, and on draft. Half the cost of canned and bottled of beer, kegged beer is a cost-efficient way to enjoy your favorite beverage. A kegerator makes this enjoyment possible, and depending on your beer buying frequency, can paying for itself in just a matter of months. It’s kegonomics, really.

Kegerator Anatomy

Let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of this aptly named beer dispenser.

Components & Tools Used in Assembly

If you purchase a complete kegerator, all components and tools necessary for assembly will be provided for you.

However, if you’re building your own custom kegerator, you’ll need to be sure you have the following components and tools:
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How Long Does A Keg Remain Fresh?

Due to a variety of beer styles and storage options for your keg, there’s no set answer to this question. Depending on who you ask or what site you read, the answer will range between 20-120 days.

There are many variables that can play a role in how quickly your kegged beer starts to alter in taste, but a general rule to keep in mind is that as soon as that keg is filled at the brewery, the “freshness clock” starts. As time goes by, your beer will slowly start to taste less and less fresh.

How Are You Dispensing Your Beer?

To give you a better idea of how long your keg will last, let’s take a look at the two most common scenarios that one would find themselves in when they tap a keg.

1. Using a Manual Pump:

Manual Keg Pump

Commonly found attached to the top of kegs at house parties and backyard cookouts, the manual pump — sometimes called a bronco pump or party pump — works by pumping air into the keg, pressurizing it so that it can dispense your beer. If you’ve ever poured a beer out of a keg, then you’re probably familiar with this kind of pump, as well as the problems that come along with it, such as over-pumping and excessively foamy beer.
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VIDEO: Love. Your. Beer.

From all of us here at Kegerator.com, we’d like to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. Forget about flowers and chocolate, here’s how we will be celebrating:

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6 Common CO2 Questions Answered

CO2 Regulator Single Gauge

CO2 is an essential factor to consider when dispensing draft beer and it’s typically the component that has the most questions associated with it. It’s unclear why people are easily intimidated with CO2, but it could be because chemical compounds and subscripts remind them of their high school chemistry class.

Without getting too technical, here are the answers to the most frequently asked CO2 questions:

1. How do I know what pressure my CO2 is set at?

Your regulator, which is the component that connects the tank to the air hose, will have either one or two gauges on it. If it only has one, then that’s the one you’re looking for. If it has two, look for the gauge that shows a range of about 0-60 PSI (pounds per square inch). This will be your regulated pressure gauge. The number the arrow is pointing to on this gauge is how much pressure is being delivered to your keg.
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What is a Keg Coupler?

Keg Coupler

Now that your home bar or man cave has its own kegerator to cool and dispense that frothy beer you love so much, it would be wise to get acquainted with some of the essential components of your kegerator. One of the most important parts of your kegerator is the keg coupler.

What the Keg Coupler Does

Think of the keg coupler as a “key” and the valve of a keg as the “lock”. They can’t work without each other. The keg coupler attaches to the valve and to a CO2 compressed gas line. It allows the compressed air to enter the keg and push out the beer. As a result of all of these components working together, you get a perfectly chilled and delicious draft beer in the comfort of your home.
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Eliminate the Beer Run: The Advantages of Home Draft Beer Systems

Having your very own home draft system is a dream come true for almost every beer geek. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a cold, draft beer in the comfort of your living room or backyard. Forget the hassle of opening beer bottles and the excess waste they create. Owning your own kegerator is the perfect set-up that every beer geek needs.

Types of Home Draft Beer Systems

There are several home draft beer systems you can choose from.  Before going out and buying the first kegerator you find, make sure you know the differences between the two most common types of kegerators so you know which one will be best for you.

Mini Kegerators

Mini Draft Beer System

The mini kegerator is the smallest kegerator that you will find. It’s designed to tap and serve a 5-liter keg, but only contains approximately 10½ pints. Because of its smaller size, it’s perfect for those that don’t drink beer very often. Additionally, if you don’t have much space in your kitchen or man-cave, then a mini draft beer system may be the best fit for you, because it can fit easily on a countertop or corner table.

Another great benefit of having a mini-kegerator, is how easy it is to find 5-liter kegs of beer. Many grocery stores carry them along with their six-packs and cases of beer. Specialty craft beer and liquor stores also typically carry a wide variety of 5-liter kegs.

Full Size Kegerators

Full Size Draft Beer System

The most common type of kegerator is the full size system. This is your typical draft beer system that you envision when you think of a kegerator. There are many kinds of full-size kegerators available to you. The two most common are the single-tap and the dual-tap.

Just like the draft beer system you see at your favorite bar, this system works the exact same way. You can fit many different size kegs into this larger single tap system, including half barrel kegs, pony kegs and slim quarter kegs. Each size keg will serve a different amount of beer, so be sure to know how much each size keg holds before you go out and buy more beer than you need. If you aren’t sure about how many beers are in a keg, it would be wise to check out our handy keg comparison chart.

Full size kegerators also work better at keeping your kegs at your chosen temperature. Make sure you get a home draft system that has foam insulation or refrigeration within the tower, as this helps keep the beer inside the lines stay at the right temperature before it’s poured.

Cleaning Your Draft System

Like anything you buy for your home, a home draft beer system does require a little bit of maintenance. Draft beer is ideally dispensed through a six-foot line that connects the keg and the faucet. It’s important to clean all of the components of your home kegerator regularly. Not only does this help protect your investment in the equipment, but it also ensures that you have the freshest, best-tasting beer.

Cleaning the various components of your system is easy and doesn’t take much time. We would recommend buying a cleaning kit because it will make the process much easier for you, but it is possible to clean your kegerator without a kit. For more information, please refer to our previous write-up that details how to clean your kegerator.

Don’t Forget About Glassware

Now that you have your home draft system set up and your beer is ready to be poured. We would also recommend getting a nice set of glassware. There are many different types of beer glasses available, so learn about the differences and buy a nice set. You’d be surprised how much better your beer tastes and smells when you drink it out of the right style of glass.

If you really want to go the extra mile with your beer glasses, then purchase a special kind of detergent designed for glassware. Your typical dish washing detergents can sometimes leave a slight film on the glass. You may not notice if this film affects the taste of your beverages, but it may cause the CO2 in your beer to break out and lead to it tasting somewhat flat.

Recommended Reading:

5 Tips for Buying the Perfect Outdoor Kegerator

outdoor kegerator

Summit Professional Outdoor Kegerator

Buying the perfect outdoor kegerator isn’t as simple as it seems.  There are a variety of factors many people overlook, which can cause problems in the long run.  At the same time, if you know what to look for, the right outdoor kegerator will quickly reveal itself.  The key is having a general idea of how you will be using it before making the purchase.

What Makes an Outdoor Kegerator Unique?

The most important fact to understand is there are unique characteristics which separate outdoor kegerators from the rest.  In general, kegerators can be separated into four categories – mini, indoor, commercial, and outdoor.  Outdoor kegerators are engineered with the ability to keep beer frosty and cold, regardless of the surrounding temperature.  Most are rated to operate within a range of 45 degrees to 100 degrees.  Indoor and commercial kegerators should be used only within a moderate temperature range.  Outdoor kegerators are also typically designed to provide some additional mobility, whereas indoor kegerators are often designed to be setup in one place and never moved.

Decide What Type of Keg You Will Be Using

If you are new to home brewing or rarely buy kegs from liquor stores or breweries, then you may not know that there are multiple keg designs.  For example, most home brewers use a 5 gallon Cornelius keg.  This type of keg is more narrow with ball lock or pin lock gas and beer posts.  At a glance, it is immediately distinguishable from the kegs purchased from breweries.  As a result, the coupler for the gas and the beverage lines are different.  Make sure you buy a kegerator capable of handling the type of keg you use most often.

Stick with Stainless Steel

In order to save money, many people turn to outdoor kegerators with chrome-plated brass faucets and shanks.  While this is a great way to save money initially, it is actually more expensive over time.  Chrome-plated brass wears out quickly and can alter the flavor of your beer.  The best material is stainless steel.  If you really need to cut costs during your initial purchase, choose plastic fixtures and plan on upgrading to stainless steel in the future.

Check the Thermostat

When you buy an outdoor kegerator, getting a precision thermostat is essential.  External thermostats are ideal for outdoor kegerators because they allow you to continually monitor the temperature of your kegerator without needing to continually open the door and letting all of the cold air out.  Few indoor kegerators include an external thermostat, whereas a majority of outdoor kegerators do.

Think About What Type of Beer You Drink

Most beer can share the same type of outdoor kegerator system with no problems, but there are exceptions.  For example, if you drink stout beer then your kegerator will need a stout-style faucet.  Plus, stout beers are carbonated with a CO2/Nitrogen blend.  Most other beers rely only on CO2.

Buying the perfect kegerator doesn’t have to be a difficult or overwhelming process.  All you need to do is take your time and think about how you will be using it.  Consider where it will be stored, what type of kegs it needs to handle, what type of beers it needs to support, and the specific fixtures you will need (and the materials they are made out of).

Which Kegerator is Right for Me?

It’s very easy to get excited about making a kegerator purchase. The very nature of the product brings thoughts and images of great get-togethers, joyous celebrations, and all-around good times. It’s certainly not like shopping for new windshield wipers, or perhaps, say, napkin rings (if those things excite you, there’s absolutely no judgment here). But beer is something that instills a certain sense of excitement simply because it reminds us of fun, and oh-so-delicious, times. Mmm, beer…

Wait, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! It’s important to remember that there are many things to consider when making a kegerator purchase. Will you enlist it to serve up large amounts of libations regularly, or only break it out for special occasions? Will you use it inside, outside, or both? Do you want to install it in your home bar area, or will it stand uncovered on its own, to bask in all its glory? These are just some of the many important questions you should ask yourself when deciding which kegerator to outfit your space with. Remember, there are a lot of kegerator models out there to choose from, but the one you choose will most likely become an official member of your household, so choose wisely!

There are more types of kegerators than you might think. There are a wide variety or full-size home kegerators, commercial kegerators for restaurant and bar use, and even mini kegerators, designed specifically for use with 5-liter “mini kegs”. The following will detail the capabilities and drawbacks of each type of kegerator, and will ultimately help you decide which one is right for you.

Full Size Home Kegerators

These kegerators are designed for personal use in your home and come in a great number of styles to suit all sorts of applications. They are great for those that like to keep larger quantities of beer and/or entertain guests often and are capable of holding full-size half-barrel kegs.

1/2 barrel keg

First, choose a model based on whether or not you want to use it indoors or outdoors. If you plan on using your kegerator exclusively indoors, there’s no need to shell out the extra cash for outdoor capabilities that you do not need. Full-size indoor kegerators can either be designed for freestanding or built-in (under-counter) installation. Freestanding models are fully-finished, fully-enclosed units that can stand on their own.

EdgeStar full size beer kegerator

EdgeStar KC2000

Additionally, most models include casters that allow you to move the unit about easily (as seen on the underside of the EdgeStar kegerator above). Though, freestanding kegerators require at least 3-4 inches of space between the back of the unit and wall, as well as 2-3 inches on each side in order to properly ventilate. Because the compressor is located on the back of the unit, there must be a sufficient buffer that allows the hot air produced by the compressor to escape. Using a freestanding kegerator in a built-in application could cause overheating and will undoubtedly compromise the unit’s performance overall.

So, if you’re looking to install your kegerator under cabinetry or another type of enclosure, built-in models are for you. Kegerators that are capable of built-in installation will always highlight the ability as a feature due to the fact that it’s the sole differentiator from a freestanding unit. Otherwise, built-in models tend to look very similar, if not identical, to their freestanding cousins. You can also usually spot them out because they typically have cooling systems that ventilate out of the front of the unit.

Summit triple tap built in kegerator

Summit SBC490BITRIPLE

This feature allows flush installation without a need for any extra space around the sides and back. Though some units on today’s market still vent from the back, but have an additional fan to help channel and force the hot air away from the cabinet. One downside of built-in kegerators is that they usually cost more due to a more complex cooling system design. Higher-end units are also completely enclosed, including the backside.

Now, if you want to use your kegerator outdoors full-time, say, in a patio entertainment area, or just want to have the ability to use it outside, say, for a backyard barbecue on the weekend, you should go with an outdoor kegerator.

Summit professional outdoor kegerator

Summit SBC490OS

 

These outdoor-specific units are different from those built for indoor use in that they have a weatherproof construction, made to outlast the elements. Additionally, they have increased insulation to keep your beer at the perfect temperature, and are also equipped with more powerful compressors that have greater cooling capabilities to combat extreme ambient temperatures. Keep in mind, outdoor kegerators will typically cost more than units made for indoor use due to these upgrades in design, functionality, and versatility.

Mini Kegerators

Don’t have the space for a full-size kegerator or just don’t have a need for a full-size keg? Then your best bet is a mini kegerator, which is small enough to sit on your countertop while taking up minimal space. They are designed to store and dispense beer from 5-Liter Kegs, which come in a variety of offerings.

EdgeStar mini kegerator

EdgeStar TBC50S

 

Mini-kegerators are perfect for people that prefer draft beer over bottled, but don’t like to commit to multiple gallons of a single beer. A mini-kegerator gives you the power to pour yourself a fresh pint as you would get at a bar, but from the comfort of your own home and without the premiums involved. Also, mini kegerators are great for European beer enthusiasts as many popular Eurobrews are sold in 5-liter kegs. These mini kegs can be tapped easily without having to purchase a European-specific coupler to fit the keg, as you would with a full-size keg.

It’s also important to be aware of the fact that mini kegs come in pressurized and non-pressurized varieties. Pressurized kegs come filled with the gas necessary to dispense the beer. All mini kegerators are able to dispense from pressurized kegs, making them the more convenient option. However, some of your favorite beers may only be offered in non-pressurized kegs, in which case you will need to make sure that your mini-kegerator has the ability to dispense from them. These mini kegerators will specify if they have the ability or will sometimes offer an additional kit that allows you to infuse gas directly into the keg. This gas cartridge system will add the perfect amount of gas to your keg on the spot, and will provide the pressure necessary to serve beer from the previously non-pressurized keg.

Koldfront mini kegerator

Koldfront KBC51SS

Commercial Kegerators

The biggest, and typically most expensive, breed of the bunch is the commercial kegerator. These are kegerators designed specifically for use in commercial settings, including bars, restaurants, and grocery stores. They are constructed of the highest quality materials and feature a sturdier design to withstand high usage levels.

True Single Kegerator

True TDD-1-S

Unlike many residential kegerators, commercial units often employ a different cooling method known as forced air cooling. Instead of using a cold plate within the refrigeration chamber to maintain internal temperatures, a fan forces cold air throughout the space. The result is a more evenly cooled space that allows all contents to reach and maintain the same temperature. With forced air cooling nothing within the kegerator can come in direct contact with cooling components. With cold plate cooling, you can get cold spots, where kegs that are closer to the plate will have a lower temperature.

Commercial kegerators are definitely not for everyone, as they carry a higher price tag, and can take up a lot more space. Additionally, larger commercial units are intended for a single point installation, and cannot be easily moved from place to place. However, they are ideal for businesses and even residential applications that demand the absolute best performance capabilities and durability.

While there are a tremendous amount of options and aspects to consider when picking your perfect kegerator, just remember that it’s a kegerator! I’m willing to bet that it’s one of the purchases in life you’ll be most excited to shop for. When you find the perfect fit and pour that first pint, be sure to raise it not only to your friends, but to your delicious draft beer-dispensing kegerator, too!