Science, Tech, Math › Science Scoville Scale Organoleptic Test Share Flipboard Email Print Floortje / Getty Images Science Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate by Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Updated September 09, 2018 The Scoville scale is a measure of how pungent or spicy hot chili peppers and other chemicals are. Here is how the scale is determined and what it means. Origin of the Scoville Scale The Scoville scale is named for American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, who devised the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 as a measure of the amount of capsaicin in hot peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical responsible for most of the spicy heat of peppers and certain other foods. Scoville Organoleptic Test or Scoville Scale To perform the Scoville Organoleptic Test, an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil from a dried pepper is mixed with a solution of water and sugar to the point where a panel of taste-testers can barely detect the heat of the pepper. The pepper is assigned Scoville units based on how much the oil was diluted with water in order to reach this point. As an example, if a pepper has a Scoville rating of 50,000, that means capsaicin oil from that pepper was diluted 50,000 times before the testers could just barely detect the heat. The higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper. Tasters on the panel taste one sample per session so that the results from one sample don't interfere with subsequent testing. Even so, the test is subjective because it relies on human taste, so it is inherently imprecise. Scoville ratings for peppers also change according to a type of pepper's growing conditions (especially humidity and soil), maturity, seed lineage, and other factors. The Scoville rating for a type of pepper may vary naturally by a factor of 10 or more. Scoville Scale and Chemicals The hottest hot pepper on the Scoville scale is the Carolina Reaper, with a Scoville rating of 2.2 million Scoville units, followed by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper, with a Scoville rating of around 1.6 million Scoville units (compared with 16 million Scoville units for pure capsaicin). Other extremely hot and pungent peppers include the Naga Jolokia or Bhut Jolokia and its cultivars, the Ghost chili and Dorset Naga. However, other plants produce spicy hot chemicals which can be measured using the Scoville scale, including piperine from black pepper and gingerol from ginger. The 'hottest' chemical is resiniferatoxin, which comes from a species of resin spurge, a cactus-like plant found in Morocco. Resiniferatoxin has a Scoville rating a thousand times hotter than pure capsaicin from hot peppers, or over 16 billion Scoville units! ASTA Pungency Units Because the Scoville test is subjective, the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) uses high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to accurately measure the concentration of spice-producing chemicals. The value is expressed in ASTA Pungency Units, where different chemicals are mathematically weighted according to their capacity to produce a sensation of heat. The conversion for ASTA Pungency Units to Scoville heat units is that ASTA pungency units are multiplied by 15 to give equivalent Scoville units (1 ASTA pungency unit = 15 Scoville units). Even though HPLC gives an accurate measurement of the chemical concentration, the conversion to Scoville units is a little 'off', since converting ASTA Pungency Units to Scoville Units yields a value from 20-50% lower than the value from the original Scoville Organoleptic Test. Scoville Scale for Peppers Scoville heat units Pepper Type 1,500,000–2,000,000 Pepper spray, Trinidad Moruga Scorpion 855,000–1,463,700 Naga Viper pepper, Infinity chili, Bhut Jolokia chili pepper, Bedfordshire Super Naga, Trinidad Scorpion, Butch T pepper 350,000–580,000 Red Savina habanero 100,000–350,000 Habanero chili, Scotch bonnet pepper, Peruvian White Habanero, Datil pepper, Rocoto, Madame Jeanette, Jamaican hot pepper, Guyana Wiri Wiri 50,000–100,000 Byadgi chili, Bird's eye chili (Thai chili), Malagueta pepper, Chiltepin pepper, Piri piri, Pequin pepper 30,000–50,000 Guntur chilli, Cayenne pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper, Cumari pepper, Katara 10,000–23,000 Serrano pepper, Peter pepper, Aleppo pepper 3,500–8,000 Tabasco sauce, Espelette pepper, Jalapeño pepper, Chipotle pepper, Guajillo pepper, some Anaheim peppers, Hungarian wax pepper 1,000–2,500 Some Anaheim peppers, Poblano pepper, Rocotillo pepper, Peppadew 100–900 Pimento, Peperoncini, Banana pepper No significant heat Bell pepper, Cubanelle, Aji dulce Tips to Make Hot Peppers Stop Burning Capsaicin isn't water soluble, so drinking cold water won't ease the burn of a hot pepper. Drinking alcohol is even worse because the capsaicin dissolves in it and gets spread around your mouth. The molecule binds to pain receptors, so the trick is to either neutralize alkaline capsaicin with an acidic food or drink (e.g., soda, citrus) or surround it with a fatty food (e.g., sour cream, cheese). Continue Reading Resiniferatoxin Is 1,000 Times Hotter Than Pure Hot Pepper Heat What Makes Superfoods so Healthy? Cooling Cures for Burning Capsaicin From Hot Peppers Is Wasp Spray Better than Pepper Spray for Self-Defense? Why Mint Makes Your Mouth Feel Cold Things You Shouldn't Microwave (and What Happens If You Do) The 'Do Not Microwave' List Put a Little Spice in Your Life with the History of Chili Peppers Learn the pH of Common Chemicals Like Vinegar and More What Temperature Means in Science What Is Accuracy in Science? Who Gets Credit for Inventing the Thermometer? 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