Falling Number | PerkinElmer

Falling Number

The World Standard Method for determining sprout damage and alpha-amylase.

The Perten Falling Number® System measure alpha-amylase enzyme activity in grains and flour to detect sprout damaged grain allowing users to optimize grain products for their intended use. Alpha-amylase activity is crucial to final product quality of bread, pasta, noodles and malt. Anyone trading, processing and using wheat, barley, rye or sorghum intended for these applications will benefit from the Falling Number system.

Standard Methods include: ICC/No. 107/1 (1968), AACC/No. 56-81.03 (1972), ISO/No. ISO/DIS 3093 (1974) and ASBC Barley 12-A.

  • Rainy, adverse weather conditions can cause grain to sprout during harvest
  • Sprouting leads to the expression of the alpha-amylase enzyme
  • Alpha-amylase activity has a 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

Falling Number in …

Grain Trade

In years with rainy weather during harvest, significant sprout damage may occur. In such years every truckload of grain should be tested at elevators and grain intakes before unloading and risk mixing loads of sound grain with sprout damaged grain. Damaged grain can be rejected or segregated for use in animal feed or for other non-baking purposes such as biofuel. Segregation is important as a few percent of highly sprouted grain mixed with sound grain can render the entire mixture unsuitable for bread making or other end product purposes. Segregation also allows for a careful blending of grains to meet Falling Number specifications - particularly at the flour mill. 

The Falling Number value can vary from 62 seconds for heavily sprouted grain to well over 400 seconds for some specific varieties of wheat. Segregation limits vary from country to country and depend 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 by exporting countries for wheat and durum. Limits are lower for rye with segregation below or above the 110-140 seconds' range. 

The Falling Number value is used in price regulations for payment to farmers or traders in national and international trade and for verifying trade contract quality specifications. Damaged wheat can receive a 10-30% lower price causing significant economic losses to the farmer or grain trader. 

Flour Milling and Baking

A certain amount of alpha-amylase is necessary for proper baking. Alpha-amylase breaks down starches to provide sugars to fuel the fermentation process for leavened breads. 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 Falling Number value has an inverse relationship with the alpha-amylase activity meaning the higher the alpha-amylase activity the lower the Falling Number value, and vice-versa. 

Millers use the Falling Number value to produce products with desired Falling Number values. They blend flours of various Falling Number values or add malt to produce a product with a specific amylase activity.   

The Falling Number value desired will be dependent on the type of product to be produced. Breads flours will have different Falling Number requirements than those of cracker flours. Bakers may use the Falling Number to dictate to their suppliers the type of product they require for their specific end product. Bakers also have the option of manipulating their flours in the same manner as the miller. Quality control personnel use the Falling Number value as a quality control tool to help assure the consistency of both incoming and outgoing products helping save time and money. 

Pasta and Noodle Manufacturing

Producing noodles from flour with a low Falling Number is difficult as it leads to difficulties in dough handling, cutting, extrusion, 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. 


Sound, viable grains are required for a high germination rate 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 pre-germination will be affected. The ability to germinate further decreases during storage, and barley with acceptable germination at harvest could - just months later - exhibit germinations significantly lower than the generally requested 95%. The slight pre-germination cannot be detected through visual inspection. 

To avoid purchase of pre-germinated barley the Falling Number analysis can be used for screening 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 required. 

Falling Number 1000

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.

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Falling Number 1310

FN 1310 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 1310 is built offer high return on your investment through many years of trouble-free operation.

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