Best Headspace Analyzer (updated for 2024)

Headspace Analyzer, MAP Analyzer -

Best Headspace Analyzer (updated for 2024)

Gas detection is crucial in the food packaging industry, where headspace analyzers, also known as MAP (Modified Atmosphere Packaging) analyzers, play a vital role in ensuring food quality and safety. These devices measure the gas composition within food packaging, focusing on the concentration of gases like nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen. By minimizing oxygen presence, food manufacturers can prevent spoilage and extend the shelf life of their products. Headspace oxygen analyzers, the most common type of MAP analyzer, provide quantitative data on oxygen levels, allowing food companies to maintain strict quality control standards and deliver fresh, safe products to consumers. Accurate gas detection in food packaging not only enhances food preservation but also contributes to reducing food waste and improving overall food safety.



  • Headspace analyzers can detect gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
  • MAP gases with reduced oxygen is often called modified atmosphere packaging. This technique extends the life of food products.
  • Oxygen MAP analyzers are the most common type of headspace analyzer. Dry products such as cereal, vegetables such as broccoli, and meat all employ modified food packaging.
  • Headspace analyzers are not cheap and can cost thousands of dollars.
  • Headspace analyzers require a destructive test to be performed. The food packet must be punctured  to sample the gas.
  • Headspace analyzers require periodic calibration for maximum accuracy. 
  • Ensure when testing food or liquid does not get sucked in the needle and tubing.

What is the Best Headspace Analyzer?

What Is Headspace Analysis?

Headspace is the term used within the food industry to refer to the residual air within a sealed packet. The air that remains in the packet is sometimes normal air. Other times, a mix of gases is used instead of air to extend the shelf life of food.

Typical headspace gases include nitrogen (N2), carbon dioxide (CO2), or carbon monoxide (CO2), these are also called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) gases.

Headspace analysis is the technical test to determine gas levels within the food packaging. Performing this test accomplishes the following:

  • Ensures the food packaging production line is operating as expected.
  • Provides a quantitative quality control key figure.
  • Ensures the packaging is not compromised with pin holes or poor adhesion.

Headspace Analyzer Options?

Of all the different type of gas to be detector by a headspace analyzer, the most popular in terms of sales volume is the Headspace Oxygen Analyzer. Other popular models include analyzers with CO2 and CO combinations and shown below.

headspace analyzer oxygen MAP

What Is Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP)?

When air is replaced with a gas mixture (i.e CO2, N2, or CO) during food packaging, this process is called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).

MAP technology extends shelf life by reducing oxidation and spoilage of perishable food and beverage products. 

MAP is commonly used in a variety of foods, both produce and dry products. Broccoli, sausage, nuts, and coffee are only a few examples of packaged foods that utilize this technique.

Why Do Foods Require MAP?

In most food packaging applications, an important objective is to extend shelf life. This can be accomplished by introducing a unique gas or gas mixture into the food packaging to reduce:

  • Oxygen and rate of oxidization.
  • Growth of bacteria or mold.
  • Food degradation by reducing lipolysis.
  • Breakdown of food proteins.
  • Other physicochemical deterioration processes.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) is required for several reasons, mainly revolving around the preservation and quality maintenance of perishable products. Here are the primary reasons for its necessity:

1. **Extended Shelf Life**: One of the most significant benefits of MAP is the extension of the product's shelf life. By reducing the amount of oxygen in the packaging and replacing it with other gases, the growth of aerobic bacteria and fungi is limited, which can lead to spoilage.

2. **Maintaining Product Freshness**: By slowing down the oxidation process, MAP helps retain the freshness, flavor, texture, and nutritional value of foods for a more extended period.

3. **Reduced Need for Preservatives**: With the controlled atmosphere provided by MAP, there's a reduced need to use chemical preservatives to maintain product freshness, making foods more natural and potentially healthier.

4. **Reduction in Product Returns**: As products have a longer shelf life and maintained quality, there's a decrease in the rate of returns due to spoilage.

5. **Economical**: In the long run, MAP can be cost-effective for manufacturers and retailers. With products lasting longer on shelves, there's less waste, and inventory management can be more efficient.

6. **Wider Distribution**: An extended shelf life also means products can be distributed over more extended distances without the concern of them spoiling before reaching their destination.

7. **Consumer Appeal**: Products packaged under MAP often have a fresher appearance, which can be more appealing to consumers than products that show signs of oxidation or spoilage.

In essence, Modified Atmosphere Packaging is required to maintain the quality of perishable products, extend their shelf life, reduce waste, and meet consumer demands for fresh and quality products.

What Is a Headspace Analyzer?

Headspace analyzers are sometimes called MAP analyzers or food packaging analyzers. The device has a built-in pump that withdraws a gas sample from a packaged food product using a small probe or syringe.

From there, the gas is passed to sensors that reside within the analyzer. The voltage changes based on the gas concentration and sensor output. Based on curve fitting algorithms, the analyzer determines the concentration of gas.

The most common headspace analyzer is an oxygen headspace analyzer. In most cases, food packets undergo a nitrogen flush to remove as much oxygen as possible. Analyzing oxygen concentration is very important and one of the most common headspace analyzer tests.

What Is a MAP Analyzer?

A MAP analyzer is also known as a modified atmosphere packaging analyzer. It is synonymous for a headspace analyzer and also called a food packaging analyzer. Don't get confused, these terms all refer to the same piece of equipment.

Which Gases Are Used for MAP and Headspace?

The typical gases used for headspace include carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen (N2), and carbon monoxide (CO). Depending on the food and packaging type, the types of gases and their ratios will vary. These differences will affect the physicochemical deterioration, such as oxidation, lipolysis, and proteolysis.

Examples of packaged foods and typical MAP gas compositions include:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables 

    • Gas mix of 90% N2, 5% O2, and 5% CO2
  • Cheese

    • Cottage cheese = 100% CO2
    • Provolone = 30% CO2 and 70% N2
    • Meat

      • Cooked meat, such as burger patties = 70% N2 and 30% CO2
      • Raw meat, such as beef and pork = 70% O2 and 30% CO2
      • Dried food

          • Coffee and nuts: 100% N2

        How Do I Perform a Headspace Analysis?

        Performing a headspace analysis is straightforward. The test process goes something like this:

        1. Ensure you have your needle, filter, and tubing attached to the MAP analyzer.
        2. Ensure the analyzer pump is operational.
        3. Ensure the analyzer is calibrated. If detecting oxygen, ensure the O2 is reading 20.9%, CO2 is reading <0.1%, and CO is reading 0%.
        4. Place a septa on the food packaging. 
        5. Place the needle through the septa and into the package. Turn the pump ON and take a gas sample
        6. As the sample is taken, the packaging will shrink since gas is being drawn out of it.
        7. Take note of the gas concentration on the analyzer. Once the levels have stabilized, record the data.

        CASE STUDY 1: Headspace Analysis to Broccoli Packaging

        An example of headspace analysis is shown below to broccoli packaging.

        CASE STUDY 2: Headspace Analysis to Coffee Beans Packaging

        An example of headspace analysis is shown below using coffee packaging.

        CASE STUDY 3: Headspace Analysis to Potato Chip Packaging

        An example of headspace analysis is shown below using potato chips packaging.

        What Are the Most Important Headspace Analyzer Considerations?

        Headspace Gas Sensing (which gas?)

        Most common gas to detect is Oxygen since it must be minimized when one undertakes a nitrogen flush. Other common gases to detect is CO2 with O2.

        Gas Detection Range and Resolution

        You also want to make sure the analyzer has the correct detection range and resolution. For example, when detecting O2, are you targeting residual O2 or the high amounts required for meat products? For residual oxygen, you need to ensure complete zero oxygen using a gas analyzer with 0.01% (100 ppm) resolution.

        Headspace Analyzer Size and Mobility

        Traditionally, headspace analyzers have been built as desktop instruments. With the creation of faster and smaller electronic components, handheld versions are available.

        Headspace Accessory Options (Septa, Needles, Filters)

        This is an important factor as it adds to the ongoing costs. Check if any proprietary accessories such as filters, septas, or needles are required that may add to your operational costs. In some cases, generic components can be substituted to reduce ongoing costs.

        Gas Calibration

        Understand the calibration requirements of your analyzer. If it requires shipment and third party calibration, this will result in increased operational costs.

        Sensor Lifetime

        Ensure you understand sensor lifetime and replacement options as all sensors have a finite lifetime. O2 and CO sensors are made using electrochemical sensors which have a typical expected life between 2 to 3 years. CO2 sensors are made using NDIR CO2 sensors which last between 5 to 10 years.

        What Are Headspace Analyzer Accessories?

        A headspace analyzer requires accessories to perform a headspace analysis. 


        Needles comes in all different shapes and sizes. Ensure your needle can be purchased in different gauges, in case your application requires something unique. Ensure the needle is not blocked by debris from food, packaging, or the septa.


        A filter is important to protect your analyzer from any food particles or packaging debris that may be sucked in during MAP analysis. 


        These are your most high volume consumables. The septa is a rubber or foam pad that is used to ensure a tight fit when the needle penetrates the packaging. This guarantees that no air gets into the package and no gases inadvertently escape.


        Ensure your tubing is as short as possible for a faster headspace analysis. Check that the tubing is food grade and has good flexibility, such as food grade silicone tubing (which is what we use at Forensics Detectors).


        septa headspace analysis

        Why Are Headspace Analyzers So Expensive?

        Headspace analyzers are expensive because they include some expensive internal components and that non standard. The hardware consists of a computer with a power microprocessor to analyze the sensor information and translate outputs into meaningful concentration values. The air sample pumping systems is also expensive, that consists of a micro-pump. However, most of the cost is from the actual gas sensor, which changes electronic output signal based on the gas concentration detected.

        Do Headspace Analyzers Require Calibration?

        Yes they do.

        All headspace analyzers require periodic calibration. At Forensics Detectors, we recommend calibrating every 6 to 12 months

        Headspace analyzer calibration is a technical procedure performed every 6 to 12 months to ensure your gas detector is functioning accurately. Over time, gas detectors and their respective sensors degrade, some faster than others. The only way to ensure accurate readings is via gas calibration.

        Gas calibration involves exposing your gas analyzer to a traceable concentration of test gas. Doing so in a controlled environment and using certified gas from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) adjusts the calibration curve of your gas detector to report accurate results.

        Headspace Gas Analyzers (Customers Opinion)

        You will be surprised to know that very large supermarket and food companies use the Forensics Detectors headspace analyzer. They are easy to use, cost effective and are fully controllable. In addition all the accessories are standard items that can be purchased from any vendor. Below is a small business using our headspace analyze for sandwich production. 

        headspace analyzer


        Final Words

        Gas detection is crucial in the food packaging industry, and headspace analyzers are essential tools for ensuring product quality and safety. These instruments provide quantitative measurements of gas concentrations, particularly oxygen, within food packaging. Regular maintenance and care are vital to ensure the accuracy and longevity of headspace analyzers, which can be costly investments. Proper usage, such as avoiding needle and tubing blockages, is essential for optimal performance. By utilizing headspace MAP analyzers, food packers can maintain strict quality control standards, extending product shelf life and reducing waste. Accurate gas detection ultimately leads to better food preservation and improved consumer satisfaction.

          About The Author

          Dr. Kos Galatsis ("Dr.Koz") is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years. 

          Everyday is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and enjoying the outdoors

          Read more about Forensics Detectors here.

          Phone: +1 424-341-3886