Scoville Scale

In 1902 Wilbur Lincoln Scoville (1865 – 1942), an American chemist developed a method for measuring the strength of capsicum in a given pepper which he called The Scoville Organoleptic Test. Scoville devised the scale in 1912 while working at the Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company to measure piquancy, or “hotness”, of various chile peppers. With the original Scoville method, a solution of a pepper extract was diluted in a sugar syrup until the heat was no longer detectable to a group of willing volunteers (or tasters). The amount of dilution (pepper & sugar syrup) provided a measure on the Scoville Scale and allowed a classification to be given.

Today of course this is done much more accurately with the help of computers to rate the peppers in Scoville units, which indicate parts per million of capsaicin. The fiery sensation of chillis is caused by capsaicin, a natural but potent alkaloid chemical that survives both cooking and freezing! Capsaicin however is also known to trigger the brain into producing endorphins, which are natural painkillers that promote a sense of well being and satisfaction.

The Scoville scale begins at zero with mild bell peppers and moves to the lower range of peppers measuring 1,500 to 2,500 such as Chile Verde and Red Chili. The Jalapeño is mid range at about 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. Towards the top of the scale, peppers such as cayenne, will rate about 30,000 to 50,000 units, while the habernero family which includes the Scotch Bonnet rates as one of the hottest, peaks between 100,00 and 500,000 units.

But – can a chili go hotter? Oh yes…. On 1 April 2006, The Times (of London) newspaper wrote an article on just this subject. They discovered that a pepper grown in Dorset, England, named the Dorset Naga had been recognised as the World’s Hottest Chili with a Scoville reading of 923,000 units, taking over the honour from the Red Savina Habanero at (only!) 523,000 units. Quite simply, to eat one of these bad boys in one go would require hospital treatment!

Amazingly since then in 2009, the record was been broken again by the Bhut Jolokia from Assam in Northern India with a mind blowing 1,001,304 reading on The Scoville Scale!

But it hasn’t stopped there either. In April 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the record had been broken – YET AGAIN! This time an Australian Grower at The Chili Foundry has grown and produced the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T. which has recorded a staggering 1,460,000 reading on The Scoville Scale!

You can read the full article in the SMH right here

Chili Heat Map