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The Best CO2 Pressure for Your Beer Keg

The Best CO2 Pressure for Your Beer Keg

Pan holding a Pilsner beer using a CO2 regulator via tap with a perfect pour.

Have you ever been embarrassed by the way your beer looks and tastes after pouring it from your keg? Does your beer have a weird taste to it? Too much foam or not enough? Well, welcome to your one stop-shop on setting up your CO2 regulator to the appropriate setting to get that perfect taste back!

Why CO2 is the Standard Gas Source

As carbon dioxide (CO2) is naturally produced during fermentation, CO2 is the best gas source for dispensing draft beer. It is important to remember that compressed air is not recommended as a gas supply. The brewing industry spends millions of dollars to keep oxygen out of the keg, thus, it is harmful to beer production to add air pressure to the beer keg. Air compressors can get dirty and the compressor oil can mix with the air, resulting in the beer's aroma, texture, and taste being off.

There is about 800 PSI in a full gas cylinder, which is too high for dispensing purposes. That is where the regulator fits in. The regulator controls (regulates) the amount of pressure used for the beer, enabling a flawless pour.

At constant pressure, CO2 displaces alcohol, removing the spilled beer by filling the vacuum that would otherwise be empty in the barrel. Empty space is referred to as 'head space.' The head space is filled with CO2 and the pressure within the keg is retained. A pressure gauge that uses pounds per square inch (PSI) to release the correct volume of gas into the keg sets the pressure.

What is the Best C02 Pressure for your Keg?

When using SPARC's Premium Dual Output CO2 Regulator for your keg, you'll need to set the CO2 pressure according to your beer type. This ensures that your beer will come out just the way you want. Most domestic ales and lagers dispense at 10 to 12 PSI. Stouts and other nitrogen-reliant keg beers are dispensed from 25 to 30 PSI.

Beer Type CO2 Volume CO2 Gauge Pressure
Stouts 1.2 - 2.1 CO2 35 - 38 PSI
Ales 2.1 - 2.6 CO2 7 - 13 PSI
Lagers 2.4 - 2.6 CO2 10 -14 PSI
Pilsners 2.5 - 2.8 CO2 11 - 16 PSI
Wheat, Belgian Ales, American Sours 2.8+ CO2 15 - 20+ PSI

These suggested settings should provide the ideal amount of pressure for your regulator per each type of beer listed. However, if it is not perfect, then use these tell-tale signs below to adjust accordingly!

How to Use a Regulator

With so many regulators on the market, it is difficult to find which one is the best one for your keg setup. Luckily, SPARC offers several that are extremely safe and easy to use. Simply attach the regulator to your CO2 gas tank and go to work. All of SPARC's regulators have a large red knob on them that lets the user adjust the working pressure without any additional tools. They are also equipped with a gas shut off valve for easy keg swaps. A safety pressure relief valve in the regulator prevents beer or anything else from backing up into the gas lines.

Under-Carbonation Signs

Low pressure can push foam and, when it reaches the bottle, the CO2 will break away from the beer. Your beer will turn flat if the pressure is not lifted to an acceptable amount.

A clear indication that the pressure is too low is when you see foam or bubbles rising in your beer hose. The foam will look loose if your beer is under-carbonated.

  • No bubbles. There's nothing moving. No bubbles at all.
  • Taste. Flat and boring. Goes down like juice.
  • Smell. Lacking in that unique smell of your favorite beer that you were dying to have.
  • Texture. The feeling on your tongue is like water. Goes down without any fizz, and is unappetizing.

To add carbonation, make sure that your CO2 tank is correctly turned on with gas remaining inside. Then, check to see what stage the beer regulator is set at. You will know that your regulator is set correctly if your tank is working correctly and there are no obstructions in the air line. You may need to change your regulator or gauge if this is the case. Luckily, SPARC offers several regulators that are safe, simple, and easy to use for all types of kegs.

A comparison picture of under carbonated and over carbonated beer.

Over-Carbonation Signs

Too much pressure is going to leave you with foamy beer that comes out of the faucet too easily. If your beer is over-carbonated, the foam will appear tight with large bubbles.

Thankfully, this is an easy fix! Shift the CO2 regulator's settings to an acceptable lower level and draw a few foamy pitchers. Often, you should use the escape valve on your coupler to bleed out the excess strain.

  • Too many bubbles. Small bubbles are uncontrollably rushing to the top of the beer.
  • Taste. When you combine water and CO2, you get carbonic acid. The taste will be way off and is the easiest giveaway of an over-carbonated beer.
  • The way it smells. You might be able to smell how acidic it is just from the bubbles.
  • The way it feels. Feels like a fresh can of seltzer right after opening it. Too hard to get down, and could make your stomach feel bloated.

When the beer seems over-carbonated, you must shift the regulator's pressure settings to an acceptable lower level and draw a few foamy pitchers. Often, you should use the escape valve on your coupler to bleed out the excess strain. These moves will cause the system to re-balance itself.

How To Pour Draft Beer

Pouring a beer is a simple task, but there are a few things to keep in mind for the best draft experience. Pouring beer straight into a glass activates the carbonation, allowing its foamy head to develop. This process releases bubbles that burst, which gives off that irresistible aroma. The right pour creates that perfect foam on top (“head”) for a flavorful tasting experience. Whether you're pouring beer from a bottle, can, or tap, here are simple steps for the perfect pour.

A person holding and inspecting a beer clean glass.

Serving from a clean glass is absolutely essential when serving a beer. Not only does this keep bacteria from building, but CO2 can attach to impurities and prevent the bubbles from reaching the top and bursting. In the beer industry, this is called a beer clean glass.

The 45 Degree Beer Pour

A perfect 45 degree beer pour while using a CO2 regulator.

Hold your glass at a 45-degree angle. Keep the glass a bit below the faucet, making sure it doesn’t touch the faucet.

Pouring the Beer

Open the faucet, and begin pouring beer down the side of the glass until it is about half full. Continue to fill the glass as you tilt it upright to a 90-degree angle. As you do this, allow a generous head of foam to form at the top of the glass. Creating that foamy head also prevents the beer from upsetting stomachs. This is because if you don't serve beer with foam, the carbonation process will happen when drinking.

Transitioning into a 90 Degree Pour

Transitioning to a 90 degree beer pour using a CO2 regulator into a clean glass.

 

If a video would be more beneficial on how to pour a beer correctly, check out this awesome how to video from Bell's Brewery!

 

Having a quality CO2 regulator can be a world of difference. Be sure to check out this top 10 best regulators article for more!