The Scoville scale was devised by Willbur Scoville to measure how hot peppers are. Evaluates the amount of capsaicin, which is a substance present in plants of the genus Capsicum. He did it through an Organoleptic test where he tried to standardize and find a way to buy different products. Even despite the limitations as it is an organoleptic analysis where people's subjectivity and their sense of palate influence, it was an advance.
Today (since 1980) quantitative analysis methods such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPCL) are used that directly measure the amount of Capsaicin. These methods return values in "units of pungency or hotness", that is, in one part of capsaicin per million of dried pepper powder. The resulting number of units is multiplied by x15 to convert to Scoville units. It would not be necessary to go to Scoville but it is still done out of deference to its discoverer and because it is a system already widely known.
The different varieties of a species can contain more or less Capsaicin, but even the cultivation methods and / or environmental factors can determine that a chili is more or less hot even if it belongs to the same variety.
Scoville Organoleptic Test
Here is the step by step of how the experiment was performed. It I have taken de Report of the Scoville Organoleptic Method for the Valuation of Capsicum (https://doi.org/10.1002/jps.3080130310).
A committee of between 5 and 10 people participated in the test to test the samples.
As it is an organoleptic analysis, that is, based on the senses, we know that we will obtain qualitative results with the advantage that in this case the flavor is not evaluated but the spiciness.
- Mix well 1 gram of Capsicum in 50 cc of alcohol in a covered flask and leave to marinate for 24 hours.
- Dilute 0,1 cc of the clear supernatant liquid in 140 cc of a 10% sugar solution in distilled water
- Five cc. of this solution swallowed at once produces a distinct acrid sensation and capsicum taste in the mouth and throat.
This test sets a standard for the minimum amount of capsaicin permissible in the official medicine and requires a dilution of 1 part of the pepper powder in 70,000 parts should give the characteristic stinging sensation.
Qualitative methods are not without controversy because there are those who say that it is not only capsaicin that determines the spiciness in the mouth, but that there are other components that help to increase that sensation on the tongue and through chromatography they are not taken into account.
Scoville Scale Table - Spice Scale (Updated)
Use this table to get an order of magnitude on the heat of the peppers, chilies and sauces that are in the market. A normal green pepper that does not bite has a value of 0 in the table, the Pure Capsaicin 16 million, the Tabasco sauce between 2500 and 5000.
|Scoville Units||Chili type|
|2.800.000 3.000.000||Pepper X|
|1.900.500 2.480.000||Dragon's Breath|
|1.569.300 2.200.000||Carolina reaper|
|1.300.000-2.000.000||Naga Viper, Trinidad Scorpion Butch T|
|350.000-580.000||Habanero Savinas Red|
|100.000-350.000||habañero pepper, Scotch Bonnet, Chile datil, Capsicum chinense|
|100.000-200.000||Rocoto or apple tree,Hot jamaican chili,piri piri|
|50.000-100.000||Thai chili, malagueta chili, chiltepin chili, piquín chili|
|30.000-50.000||Red or cayenne pepper, pickled chili, tabasco pepper, calabrese, some types of chipotle pepper|
|10.000-23.000||Chile serrano, chile de arbol, some types of chipotle chile|
|5.000-8.000||New Mexico variety of anaheim chili, Hungarian wax chili|
|2.500-5.000||Jalapeño Chile, Padrón Pepper, Tabasco Sauce|
|100-500||Bell pepper, pepperoncini, banana pepper|
|0||Not hot, green pepper|
There are products more spicy than pure capsaicin, they are analogous capsaicinoids of the previous one and here we see a table of the most important ones. There are two chemical components that far surpass it The Tinyatoxin and the number 1 Resiniferatoxin.
|Scoville heat units||Chemical|
Note that pure capsaicin has 16 million Scoville units to be an order of magnitude of the maximum. Although we have two capsaicinoids with much higher values, they are not found in chili peppers or capsicum. Are:
Tinyatoxin (TTX or TTN)
It is an analog of capsaicin, highly irritating, it appears naturally in the Euphorbia poissonii. It is a neurotoxin and (like its analogues) acts through the vanilloid receptors of sensory nerves.
It is an ultra-potent analog of Capsaicin that appears naturally in Euphorbia resinifera a plant that looks like a cactus (but is not a cactus) native to Morocco and in the Euphorbia poissonii from Nigeria. 16.000 billion Scoville units. That awful.
They are investigating RTX treatments in multiple fields of medicine.
Who was Willbur Scoville
American chemist and pharmacist (1865 - 1945)
He published the following books
- The Art of Compounding
- Extracts and Perfums S
Stinging impressions of chili peppers. My own hot scale
In this time that I have been trying different spices I like to be able to compare them. We each have an itch tolerance. But this is what they looked like to me.
- Red habanero. Very, very intense itching. Too much to eat straight. We could say that now is my limit for spiciness. I don't get to eat it directly, I use it for cooking and then I put it aside and it still seems too strong.
- Cayenne. Strong spicy, quite strong but can be eaten. Something interesting to notice a lot of itching in food.
- Carolina reaper. Super spicy, it is not even edible. Deal with great care