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A CO2 regulator can be attached to the tank, referred as tank mount or your primary regulator. If multiple regulators are required there will be a tank mount primary regulator plus regulators that hang on the wall that are called step-down or secondary regulators. In a home environment a tank mount primary CO2 regulator is used but if the beer system is designed to pour two separate beers that require different pressures then a secondary regulator would be added. An example of two beers that require different pressures are Stouts and Lagers.
There are CO2 regulators for both beer and soda and they look similar. You know you have a soda CO2 regulator because the range on the gauge typically goes as high s 160 and on a beer CO2 regulator it only goes as high as 60. Another way to tell the difference is that a soda CO2 regulator has a quarter inch flare fitting as the outlet. Carbonating soda requires a higher pressure of 100 to 110 psi. If you try to use this type of regulator on beer it can be done but it’s not recommended because the adjustment isn’t as precise as it needs to be for beer.
Following are the different styles of CO2 regulators for beer
Single gauge CO2 regulator – the gauge will show you the pressure the system is operating and the range should 0-60. The pressure that the CO2 regulator is set at is usually driven by length of line and the beer you’re pouring.
Dual gauge CO2 regulator – the top gauge reads the pressure the system is operating at. The side gauge reads the contents of the cylinder.
Secondary regulator also known as a step-down regulator – this regulator is mostly used in commercial environments and is used to decrease the pressure on your primary tank mount regulator. An example of why you would do this is if you are pouring two different beers that require different pressures. Another example of using this type of regulator is if you are pouring both soda and beer and you need to control a higher pressure for soda and a lower pressure for beer.
The above information discusses styles of regulators but all the regulators that are dual or single gauge also can purchased with other features that allow you to use either Nitrogen or a blended gas of Nitrogen and CO2 as your gas of choice for your CO2 tank.
If you are going to have your CO2 tank filled with Nitrogen – the valve inside your tank needs to be a CGA 580 valve. This type of valve requires a regulator that can handle 2000 PSI inlet pressure. Unless you have a blender box to mix CO2 and Nitrogen, you wouldn’t use straight nitrogen on a beer system. However, straight Nitrogen can be used for a wine system to provide pressure without carbonation. It can also be used for hydrolics on cars, filling your tires, and blowing out sprinkler systems.
If you are going to have your CO2 tank filled with Blend gas (which is 25% CO2 and 75% Nitrogen) the valve inside can be either a CGA 580 or a CGA 320. The CO2 regulator you select needs to match the valve in your tank. A CO2 regulator can be used on a CO2 tank filled with blend gas as long as the inlet pressure is rated at 2000 PSI.
Trouble-shooting your CO2 regulator
- The shut off valve is at a 90 degree angle with the line meaning it’s off and no beer will pour.
- The pressure is set incorrectly for the beer pouring causing foamy beer.
- The diaphragm can leak and cause inconsistent pressure .
- The CO2 regulator is stored with the CO2 tank in a cooler and the tank content gauge will not read accurately.
- Wrong regulator chosen for the application.
- Gauges are broken causing incorrect readings.
A rule of thumb for setting pressure on Ales and Lagers is multiply your beer line length by 3. This rule of thumb is for beer line with an inner diameter of 3/16. Stout beers pour at a higher pressure. If you are at an altitude of 5200 or above your beer line length needs to be a minimum of 6 feet. At an altitude of 6000 or higher you need to increase your beer line length by 1 foot for each thousand over 6000. Inaccurate beer line length is a common problem of foamy beer for people at higher altitudes.
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