The international standard method for determination of alpha-amylase activity in grain and flour. The Perten Falling Number® System measures the alpha-amylase enzyme activity in grains and flour to detect sprout damage, optimize flour enzyme activity and guarantee soundness of traded grain. Alpha-amylase activity is crucial for final product quality of bread, pasta, noodles and malt. Anyone handling wheat, barley, rye or sorghum intended for these applications will benefit from the Falling Number system.
The method is standardized by international bodies such as the ICC, CGA, ISO and ASBC in the standards: ICC/No. 107/1 (1968), AACC/No. 56-81.03 (1972), ISO/No. ISO/DIS 3093 (1974) and ASBC Barley 12-A.
World Standard - The Perten Falling Number models are the only validated instruments for Falling Number testing according to international standards: AACC/No. 56-81.03, ICC/No. 107/1, ISO/DIS 3093.
Why measure the alpha-amylase activity? Rainy, adverse weather conditions during harvest can cause sprouting. When sprouting occurs the alpha-amylase enzyme develops. Alpha-amylase activity has direct impact on bread and pasta quality and adversely affects the malting process. As little as 5% sprouted grain, mixed with 95% sound grain, can render the entire mixture unacceptable.
The end users of wheat, rye and barley suffer when the grain is sprout damaged and need to monitor the ingredients they buy. To prevent sprout damaged grain from entering the production chain, farmers and grain receivals should test the grain during harvest, and when it's delivered.
Falling Number in grain trade
In years with rainy weather conditions during harvest, significant sprout damage may occur. In such years every truck load of grain should be tested at the grain intake before unloading and segregated to different silo bins to avoid mixing loads of sound grain with sprout damaged grain. Damaged grain can be used for animal feed or other non-baking purposes such as biofuel. The segregation is important as an uncontrolled mixing of even a few percent of highly sprouted grain with sound grain can make the entire mixture unsuitable for bread making or other end product purposes. Segregation also allows for a careful blending of grains to meet FN specifications particularly at the flour mill.
The Falling Number value can vary from 62 seconds for heavily sprouted grain with excessive enzyme activity to well over 400 seconds for grains from warm and dry areas. The exact limits for segregation vary between different countries or markets and depending on the end use purpose of the grain. In the EU, the limit for intervention of bread (common) wheat is a minimum Falling Number of 220 seconds. Segregation limits at 250, 300 and even 350 seconds are commonly used for example by exporting countries for wheat or durum wheat. Limits are lower for rye with segregation below or above the 110-140 seconds range.
Because of the quality impact of sprout damaged grain, the FN value is used in price regulations for payment to farmers or traders in national and international trade world wide and for verifying trade contract quality specifications. Typically damaged wheat can receive a 10-30% lower price causing significant economic losses to the farmer or grain trader.
Falling Number in flour milling and baking
A certain amount of alpha-amylase is necessary for proper baking to occur. The alpha-amylase breaks down starches to provide sugars to help fuel the fermentation process. The amount of enzyme present can have a direct bearing upon the quality of bread produced. When the alpha-amylase activity is right, a high volume bread with firm and soft texture is achieved (FN = 250 in picture). If the activity is too high, a sticky bread crumb and low volume may result (FN = 62 in picture). If the activity is too low, a dry bread crumb with diminished volume may result (FN = 400 in picture). The FN value has an inverse relationship with the alpha-amylase activity meaning the higher the alpha-amylase activity the lower the FN value, and vice-versa.
Millers may use the FN value to produce products with desired or specific FN values. They may blend flours of various FN values to produce a product with a specific amylase activity. Malt can be added to adjust the value in a similar manner.
The exact FN number value desired will be dependent on the type of product to be produced. Breads flours will have different FN values than those of cracker flours. Bakers may use the FN to dictate to their suppliers the type of product they require for their specific endproduct. Bakers also have the option of manipulating their flours in the same manner as the miller. But by requiring the miller to supply a specific product, a baker can receive a consistent product and would not have to adjust this particular aspect of the baking process. Quality control personnel can use the FN value as a quality control tool to help assure the consistency of both incoming and outgoing products. It provides another important tool for savings of time and money.
Falling Number in pasta and noodle manufacturing
Producing noodles from flour with a low Falling Number is difficult, with dough handling and cutting problems and product sticking to machinery. It also results in an off-color end consumer product which will be sticky after it is boiled. Using flour with the correct Falling Number® will result in savings through improved processing as well as a higher quality end product.
Falling Number in malting
Sound, viable grains are required for a high germination in malting barley. Several studies have shown that barley that has pre-germinated in the field has a decreased ability to germinate during the malting process, leading to high levels of beta-glucan in the wort. Even barley with a low degree of peregrination will be affected. The ability to germinate further decreases during storage, and barley with acceptable germination at harvest could only months later exhibit germinations significantly lower than the generally requested 95% (see chart). The slight pre-germination is not possible to detect through visual inspection, but through measurement of a-amylase activity.
To avoid purchase of pre-germinated barley the Falling Number analysis can be used for acceptance testing at the barley intake. The method is rapid and determines if the barley is pre-germinated within 5 minutes.
FN > 250 Sound barley, batch OK for intake
FN < 250 Pre-germinated. Risk for poor germination, further tests needed.
FN 1000 is the newest and most modern Falling Number instrument model and offers many new benefits and improved features. It's a dual analysis system suitable for everyone who requires reliable analysis and high capacity.
FN 1305 is our basic model which allows users to buy an original Perten system at a value price. It is an automatic single analysis system designed for fast and convenient operation of the Falling Number test. The high quality standards to which the FN 1305 is built offer high return on your investment through many years of trouble-free operation.