Scoville scale

Scoville scale. A scale or units developed by Wilbur Lincoln Scoville in 1912 to recognize the itchiness or spiciness of chili peppers. Called Scoville Organoleptic Examination or SHU (Scoville Heat Unit). Currently, the organoleptic examination is in disuse, although the referential scale is maintained despite being chromatographic.


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  • 1 Definition
  • 2 Methodology
  • 3 Scale
  • 4 Author
  • 5 Sources


The Scoville Scale is a measure of the hotness or spiciness of chili peppers (chili peppers, chillies, hot peppers and other regional names). They are the fruits of the Capsicum genus, those that contain a chemical component, Capsaicin, which stimulates the heat receptors of the skin and mucous membranes, especially 4 taste buds on the tongue .

These Scoville units indicate the amount of Capsaicin present in a certain fruit. Many hot sauce makers and shopping malls that sell them use this scale as a means of advertising or information.


Scoville scale with colors on a type of chili pepper.


This scale was named by the pharmaceutical chemist Wilbur L. Scoville ( 1865 – 1942 , who developed The Scoville Organoleptic Exam in 1912. It consists of a solution with chili extract, which is diluted in sugar water until the spiciness can no longer be Detected by a committee of five examiners, the degree of dissolution of the extract is measured on the scale Thus, a sweet chili, which does not contain Capsaicin, has zero on the Scoville scale.

However, among the hottest chilies such as Habanero Chile, we find a grade of 300,000 or more. This indicates that the extract was diluted 300,000 times before Capsaicin was undetectable. The great weakness of this method lies in its imprecision, since the proof is subject to human subjectivity.

Today the organoleptic measure is no longer used, quantitative analysis methods are used. One of the most common is chromatography. However, the name of the unit of measurement has been kept in honor of Scoville. Furthermore, it has been verified that Capsaicin depends on the content of sulfur and copper in chili and that these substances have a higher concentration in the seeds. Although there are varieties that do not maintain the same itchiness throughout their shape.


The degree of spiciness of any pepper, as shown on the scale in “Scoville units,” is imprecise, because the species themselves have variations – and may change by a factor of 10 or even more – depending on the cultivation, the climate or even the cultivation land (this becomes a reality in the case of habaneros), and sometimes the degree of maturation. The inaccuracies described in the measurement methods contribute to the imprecision of the values. When interpreting a scale quotient, this should be kept in mind.

Scoville scale with chromatographic effects and types of chili peppers.


Photographs of Wilbur Lincoln Scoville

Wilbur Lincoln Scoville ( 1865 – 1942 ) was an American chemist who is best known for the Scoville Scale for organoleptic recognition of Capsaicin present in chili peppers. He developed the scale and conducted his tests during 1912 while working at the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Company to determine how hot a pepper was.

In 1922 Scoville won the Ebert Award from the American Pharmaceutical Association and in 1929 he received the Remington Medal of Honor, which is the Association’s most distinguished laureate. Scoville also received an honorary doctorate in science from Columbia University.

Scoville also wrote the book “The Art of Compounding”, which was first published in 1895 and was edited 8 times. The book was used as pharmacological references until the 1960s . Scoville also wrote “Extract and Perfumes”, with hundreds of perfume and scent formulas.


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