The Falling Number Test measures the degree of alpha-amylase activity and the fermentation process which takes place in wheat flour doughs. The quantity of enzymes (amylases) contained in flour determines the rate at which starch is converted to sugar and thus rendered accessible to the yeasts.
This test is not intended to evaluate inherent properties of cereals genetic quality, but the alterations they suffered as a consequence of deficient storage and/or conditioning conditions. Both activities, when performed deficiently, induce an excess concentration of alfa-amylases in the inner side of grains, generating later, during the baking process, a sticky internal texture.
The flours quality damage caused by faulty conditioning can be, sometimes, partially reverted with the incorporation of additives. But if the chemical reactions in the inner side of grains have already begun, quality will not improve.
The Falling Number is defined as the time (in seconds) a viscometer stirrer takes to fall a measured distance through a hot aqueous meal, flour or starch gel undergoing liquefaction due to alpha-amylase activity.