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August 11, 2020

Beer Primary c02 Regulator The Ultimate Guide For Newbies

The primary beer c02 regulator is responsible for delivering the main source of C02 to a draft beer system. Whether delivering c02 to other secondary beer regulators downstream, to gas blenders or to a keg in a kegerator.

Understanding how this piece of draft equipment functions and works is pivotal. Whether it’s a remote draft beer system, direct-draw, or a simple kegerator. 

In this Ultimate guide, I’m going to go over all that you need to understand and know. After you're done you'll be a pro. Here we go!

How To Use a co2 Regulator?

When you get your primary regulator you will also need a c02 tank to hook onto or a bulk tank. You’ll also need a crescent wrench to tighten the nut on the regulator. 

You’ll notice the c02 cylinder has a mail end. Before you screw on the primary regulator make sure that it has a seal. Some regulators come with pre seals so you won’t need one. Other regulators won’t and you’ll need a tank washer. If you need a tank washer ask your supplier of beverage c02 for some.

Once you have a seal, screw the primary nut clockwise until it’s tight, and use the crescent wrench to tighten

How To Read a co2 Regulator Gauge?

Once your regulator is hooked up to your c02 cylinder make sure that the primary lever is parallel to the floor. This means it’s in the shut-off position. If it’s in line with the hose fitting it’s open, and you need it closed first.

With the valve closed, open the c02 cylinder allowing c02 to flow to the regulator. If you’re using a double gauge which we normally do. The bottom left gauge should have an arrow in the green.

This gauge tells you how full the c02 cylinder is. It has a green area, followed by a white area, followed by a red area in a counter-clockwise direction. This tells the user how much c02 they have in their cylinder and when they should replace it. 

One of the worst things that can happen is an establishment runs out of c02 and there’s no backup. Without c02 the beer system is completely dead.

The next gauge up or sitting on top of the primary regulator shows what pressure you’re sending downstream to your beer system. Most gauges go from 0-160 psi you shouldn’t need to go above 100 psi.

Where Should The Primary Regulator Be Set At?

It all depends on the beer system. If a kegerator is being used and there is one brand of beer. The primary regulator shouldn’t be any higher than 12 psi. I'm assuming it's an ale or lager that is being dispensed and that the kegerator is at 38 degrees and the units of carb are 2.5.

If the primary regulator is feeding a direct draw system of 50 taps off the cooler wall. I’d set it to 100 psi and reduce the pressure with secondary regulators downstream to the appropriate keg.

Again it just depends on the set-up and systems. But I would usually set my primary to around 100 psi on commercial systems.

How To Adjust The co2 Regulator?

Depending on the type of regulator. The adjusting handle, screw or knob is found front and center on the regulator. Taprite has a plastic knob that’s locked in place when you first get it.

To adjust the outgoing pressure on the regulator. Pull the knob towards you until you hear it pop then turn clockwise to your desired pressure.

Other Primary regulators will have a screw that can be turned with a straight edge screwdriver. Clockwise increases pressure. Counter-clockwise decreases pressure.

When in doubt the adjustor on regulators is found in front whether it’s a knob to turn or a screw to tighten.

Recommended Primary Beer Regulators

These next 3 Regulators are one’s I’ve actually used in my commercial installs. These are my reviews from actually using them.

Best Overall

Taprite's primary regulator is very user friendly and has a red knob on the front you can adjust when you need to increase the pressure. The knob pulls out to adjust and when you set it push it back in to set the regulator and know it won’t change pressure.

Another benefit I like about this regulator is it goes from 0-160 psi in 5lb increments on the delivering pressure gauge. On the cylinder gauge bottom left. It’s color-coded to give you a nice visual of where your tank is and when it needs to be replaced.


WIll be Micro Matic’s premium dual gauge. What’s not to like about this primary regulator? Made by Micro Matic. Its front knob can turn easily to increase pressure and tighten to lock desired pressure without it moving. Also comes with a safety valve should the pressure get to a dangerous level.

The only knock is it only runs up to 60 psi. For most beer systems this is fine, but this is why I have it as my 2nd choice.

*As of today the 20th of December 2020. Micro Matic has updated their primary regulator selection and the premium dual gauge is no longer available. Their new line is called " premium plus" I haven't personally tried this new item so I am not recommending it yet. I am sure that it's good, but I want to try it before I recommend the product.*

Picture of a Primary Micromatic Regulator

Best Budget Priced 

Another great product by Micro Matic and is a great regulator to use if you don’t need to go any higher than 60 PSI. The front knob adjusts the delivering PSI. Very reliable, and I have this regulator at the best budget price because it will work for most systems, and does its job well.

* This best budget Regulator has also been discontinued from Micro Matic, and they are offering a premium plus version. Hands down the best primary I recommend is the Taprite Primary pictured above and below. As soon as I try out the new budget regulator I'll post about it here.*

Picture of an Economy Primary Regulator

My Recommendation and Summary

We talked about how to secure the primary regulator with a crescent wrench to a c02 cylinder. Making sure there is also a washer or seal beforehand. The two gauges, tank capacity on the left, and delivered pressure top gauge. 

We also talked about how to adjust the regulator with a knob, or screw, and then we talked about 3 recommendations. All three are solid choices, but I really enjoy the Taprite Dual Gauge Primary c02 regulator and this would be my first choice.

Picture of a Taprite Primary Regulator

Taprite Primary C02 Regulator

If you have any further questions feel free to get a hold of me on my contact page. For a complete guide on draft beer systems check out my ultimate guide. Talk soon!


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About the author

I've been a draft beer technician for 9 years  building, designing, and installing large commercial beer systems. Through the years I've worked on breweries, tap houses, casinos and stadiums around the country.

I enjoy sharing my passion for draft beer dispensing by talking about it, recommending dispensing equipment I've used in commercial installs, or private settings. 


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