The Scoville Scale: A blog about chillies, it’s uses and the methods used to measure their level of hotness.
The Scoville Scale is a measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.
Scoville units are defined as the number of times a chili extract must be diluted in sugar syrup before its heat becomes undetectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the more it has to be diluted to be undetectable, the higher the rating. As an example, bell peppers have a rating of zero Scoville Units, whereas pure capsaicin (the chemical responsible for the “heat” in hot peppers) rates at 16,000,000 SHU.
Chillies come in all shapes and sizes, from the bright red Habanero with its fierce heat to the mildest of bell peppers which are completely devoid of heat. The scale that measures this is known as the Scoville Scale.
The Scoville Scale measures how hot a chilli pepper is by rating it against a mixture of sugar and water. The heat is rated by the amount of capsaicin (the chemical compound that gives chillies their heat) in the pepper.
For example, if you have a sweet pepper (which contains no capsaicin) and mix it with a solution of sugar and water, then this will measure as 0 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). If a red jalapeno pepper has been added to the mixture, it may take 2 cups of water to dilute the heat away to the point where you can no longer taste any heat. This would give the jalapeno a rating of 2,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. For those braver individuals who are up for the challenge, try mixing in some habanero peppers to get an idea of what 500,000 SHU feels like!
It’s worth noting that pure capsaicin (the stuff
There are many different types of Chillies and they all have different levels of heat. There is a basic scale that is used to measure this heat and it is known as the Scoville Scale.
The Scoville Scale was invented by a man named Wilbur Scoville in 1912. He was a pharmacist at the Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company, who first came up with the idea of using his taste-testers to see how much sugar water could be added to chilli extract before it could no longer be tasted. This became known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. After being given an extract of chilli, the tasters would rate its heat against a solution of pure capsaicin, which is 16 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The degree of dilution would then be calculated and used to assign a measure on the Scoville scale.
Prior to HPLC testing, there were variations in how different people measured their chillies, so there were many different results on some varieties of chillies depending on who tested them. These days HPLC testing is considered the best way to measure heat in chillies because it provides a much more precise method of measuring heat than the human tongue can detect. The process involves injecting an
The Scoville Scale is a way to measure the heat of chillies. Named after its creator, pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the test measures the concentration of capsaicinoids; the chemical responsible for the hotness of chilli. Capsaicinoids are measured using Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
It is important to note that pepper spray and tear gas (mace) are also measured in Scoville units – these can reach as high as 2 million SHU.
The Scoville scale is just one method used to measure capsaicinoid concentration; other methods include HPLC and spectroscopy.
This blog is focused on the Scoville Scale, a useful tool for the measurement of heat in chillies. A chemical compound called capsaicin provides the heat in chillies and is measured using Scoville units. The scale starts at zero, meaning that it has no capsaicin present. At the other end of the scale is pure capsaicin which is 15 million Scoville units!
The chillies on this end of the scale are not to be messed with. They will seriously burn your mouth and probably cause a trip to the hospital.
If you have ever had a bad reaction after eating chillies you will know all about this end of the scale, because these are the chillies that will get you into trouble.
The Scoville scale is a measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.
Pure capsaicin is a hydrophobic, colorless, odorless, and crystalline-to-waxy solid at room temperature, and measures 16,000,000 SHU.
World’s hottest chilli pepper: Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
16 million SHU
The hottest chilli pepper in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. Grown in Trinidad and Tobago it was certified by New Mexico State University’s Chile Pepper Institute as the world’s hottest chilli pepper with an average heat of more than 1.2 million Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). It has since been superseded in 2012 by the Infinity Chilli from England and the Naga Viper Chilli which has a range of 1.35 to 2.2 million SHUs and was created by crossing three different varieties – Naga Morich, Bhut Jol
The Scoville Scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville Heat Units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.
In Scoville’s method, an exact weight of dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol to extract the heat components (capsinoids), then diluted in a solution of sugar water. Decreasing concentrations of the extracted capsinoids are given to a panel of five trained tasters, until a majority (at least three) can no longer detect the heat in a dilution. The heat level is based on this dilution, rated in multiples of 100 SHU. A weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision due to human subjectivity, depending on the taster’s palate and their number.
Because theScoville Scale measures capsaicin concentration in multiples of 100 SHU, an increase of 100 units is equivalent to about 1% more capsaicin per unit of measure (dry weight). For example, if