A widely-used scale to determine how pungent peppers are. Measured in Scoville Heat Units.

Originally developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, it is the scale of the concentration of capsaicin within a particular type of pepper or chili.

Scoville Units    = Pepper variety
0                 = Bell, Sweet Italian
100-500           = Peperocini
500-1,000         = New Mexico
1,500-2,500       = Ancho, Passila, Poblano
2,500-10,000      = Jalapeño, chipotle
5,000-23,000      = Serrano
15,000-30,000     = de Arbol
30,000-50,000     = Piquin, Aji, Cayenne
80,000-300,000    = Habanero, Scotch Bonnet
800,000-1,500,000 = Naga Jolokia, Bhut Jolokia
16,000,000        = Pure capsaicin
The heat in a chilli comes from a family of chemicals known as capsaicinoids, most commonly capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin, but also nordihydrocapsaicin, norcapsaicin, homocapsaicin, nornorcapsaicin, and homodihydrocapsaicin,

The original Scoville Organoleptic Test measured the heat level of a chilli by using five human subjects to taste a chilli and record the heat level the capsicanoids caused them to feel.

The test procedure is as follows.

  • An alcoholic extract of the chilli to be tested is made.
  • A level of extract such that a negative response will be obtained is chosen and diluted with 5% sucrose solution to make a 50ml sample.
  • This initial level of extract is increased and the solution remade until three out of five tasters report a burning sensation. Between each iteration the testers should wash their mouths out with water, and wait for five minutes.
These days chilli heat is measured in a slightly more accurate manner, using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to measure the number of capsaicinoids present in a sample.

Test method taken from the Zarc International website at http://www.zarc.com/english/cap-stun/tech_info/oc/scoville.html

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