If your goal is to make a profit from the sale of draft beer – or if you simple want to enjoy the best of the brewers’ art – your dispensing system must be balanced. One aspect of a draft dispense system that ensures this balance is pressure (specifically, pressure against the keg).
Maintaining a constant and consistent pressure to the keg requires an accurate regulator gauge. If a gauge is damaged, provides a false reading, or has a wide range on the faceplate that makes small adjustments difficult, the keg pressure can be out of balance… and the result will be foam, wasted beer, and quality issues.
This holds true more so with simple kegerators or direct draw dispensing systems that utilize 100% CO2 between 10 and 18 PSIG (pounds per square inch gauge). This CO2-only dispense method requires very precise tuning of pressure. Inaccurate pressures will contribute to higher operating cost and impact the enjoyment of a normally refreshing beverage – draft beer. The exact pressure required is for a discussion at a later time. For now, the focus is on gauge accuracy to alleviate potential dispensing headaches.
Preferably, to acquire more precise adjustments, use a regulator that has a 0-30 PSI gauge range. Instrumentation such as a 0-30 PSI gauge is more accurate mid-range than those with a 0-60 range. Micro Matic now offers a 0-30 PSI gauge as a replacement for those that are unreadable due to damage or if you desire to replace that 0-60 gauge.
Another method of assuring gauge accuracy is to utilize a CO2 pressure tester on existing or broken gauges. It has a “zero adjust gauge” with a 0-30 range allowing for easy field calibration. This device is designed to check pressure settings either at the coupler (“D” or “S” system) or at the shut-off below the regulator by reversing the tester’s shut-offs.
To protect your gauges, consider a cage that mounts to the regulator and wraps around the gauges. This can prevent damage if the cylinder falls over or if the regulator is forced into a wall in a high traffic area. As a safety precaution, always remember to secure the cylinders with some type of tether to reduce the risk of them falling over.
It can be rewarding dispensing beer from kegs with systems of this variety… don’t let a faulty gauge or incorrect adjustments aggravate the complexity of fine-tuning, thus tarnishing the experience!
Whether your desire is to enjoy every last drop of beer in the keg, to acquire optimal profit, to encourage resale, or to ensure the system is tuned properly… it’s best to always utilize the right components and tools for the job. You’ll sleep well knowing that the gauge is accurate and the system is balanced.
Oh, and one final reminder – don’t forget to perform a “leak test” on your pressure system, and calibrate that thermometer!