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.
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.
How Do You Make Adjustments With a Regulator?
An adjustment screw controls the partial opening and closing of a valve. If you turn the adjustment screw clockwise, the valve will begin to close. If you turn the adjustment screw counterclockwise, the valve will open more.
Types of Regulators
There are different types and variations of regulators available. It’s important to know the similarities and differences between each, so you can be sure you get the best one for your beer dispensing needs.
A primary regulator is the most standard option available. They are intended to regulate CO2 or Nitrogen and have at least 1 gauge. This gauge features a measurement of 0–60 lbs, which are actually PSI (pounds per square inch). This gauge is called the Output Pressure Gauge and is used to show how much CO2 or Nitrogen pressure you are using to dispense your beer.
The primary regulators are always connected directly to the gas tank. No matter the model or brand, your primary regulator should always feature a shut-off valve and a safety relief valve. The shut off valve is a quick and easy way to stop the flow of gases. The safety relief valve automatically stops gas flow before dangerous or unsafe pressures are reached. If you are dispensing 2 kegs that require the same amount of pressure, you can use a 2 product primary regulator. These connect directly to the CO2 tank and have 2 hose nipples.
CO2 vs. Nitrogen Primary Regulators
Nitrogen and CO2 regulators cannot be interchanged because Nitrogen regulators are designed to withstand higher pressures and have characteristics specific only to nitrogen systems, such as a male thread with conical fittings. If you plan to dispense beer using Nitrogen, you cannot use a CO2 regulator.
Single Gauge vs. Dual Gauge Primary Regulators
Single gauge regulators only have an output pressure gauge. Dual or double gauge regulators have both an output pressure gauge and a tank pressure gauge. The tank pressure gauge has a measurement range of 0–3000 lbs, or PSI.
While the output pressure gauge shows you how much pressure is being dispensed, the tank pressure gauge explains how much CO2 or Nitrogen is remaining in the tank. Having an output pressure gauge is crucial for dispensing beer, while the tank pressure gauge is helpful, yet not crucial. Without the second tank pressure gauge, the only issue you may encounter is an unforeseen empty CO2 or Nitrogen tank.
If you’re storing and pouring from multiple kegs and need different output pressures for each one, then you will need a secondary regulator.
Unlike primary regulators, secondary regulators do not connect directly to the gas tank. They are additions attached after the primary regulator is attached. Secondary regulators have anywhere from 1 to 4 adjustment screws and hose nipples, allowing you to dispense up to 4 kegs using 1 gas source. Similar to primary regulators, secondary regulators have a 0-60 lbs. output pressure gauge, a shut-off valve, and a safety relief valve for each product it can connect to.
Air Line Distributors
If you’re dispensing multiple kegs and each keg requires the same pressure, you can use an air line distributor instead of a secondary regulator.
Essentially the only difference between a distributor and a secondary regulator is the inability to adjust the pressure for each keg. A distributor will take the pressure set by the primary regulator and distribute that pressure to each keg. A secondary regulator gives you more control, allowing you to make adjustments to each keg individually.
Now that you know the basics, you’ll be finding that perfect pressure, dispensing beer with the perfect head, and thanking your regulator in no time at all.