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The Scoville Scale Explained

A brief overview of the Scoville scale and how it works to detect heat levels in chili peppers.



WHAT IS THE SCOVILLE SCALE?


A scale used to measure the heat level or “spiciness” of chili peppers and other products. The Scoville scale is recorded in Scoville heat units (SHU), which is based on the concentration of capsaicinoids.


HOW ARE THE SCOVILLE HEAT UNITS DETERMINED?


Using the Scoville organoleptic test, which is determined by taste testers sampling a mixture of water sugar and an alcohol extract of capsaicin oil that is extracted from the dried chilies. This combination is slowly diluted more and more after each tasting until the taste tester can no longer taste the “burn”. The chili is then given a Scoville Heat Unit based on the amount of dilution required.


IS THE SCALE ACCURATE?


The Scoville scale is essentially an advanced taste test. Because taste is subjective (some can handle more heat, while others cannot), this scale is considered more of a rough guide as opposed to a conclusive analysis of the chili’s capsaicin levels.



WHO WAS THE SCALE NAMED AFTER?


An American pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville, in 1912 he created the Scoville organoleptic test.







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