Everything You Need To Know About The Scoville Scale

Scoville Scale

If you love a spicy hot chilli pepper you have no doubt seen or heard of the Scoville Scale before. The higher the amount on the scale, the hotter yourScoville Scale chilli.

As you, like many of us, have been busy enjoying the sumptuous heat of hot chilli peppers you may not have paid much mind to how their heat is measured using this scale.

We know it measures the heat, but how does it do it? How was it invented? Which is the hottest chilli on the scale?

So that you can feel much more clued up on the Scoville Scale, we’ve collected all the information you need to know about it and more:


Scoville Scale – The Measurement of a Chillies Heat

The Scoville scale is the world recognized scale for measuring the heat in chillies and other peppers. The scale was created in the early 1900’s by Scoville Scale pharmacist Wilbur L. Scoville.

Scoville’s method was simple, yet very effective. He soaked each different variety of pepper separately in alcohol overnight. Because capsaicin is soluble in alcohol, the soaking extracted the pungent chemicals from the pod.

He then took a precise measure of the extract and added sweetened water in incremental portions until the heat was barely detectable on his tongue.

This process was groundbreaking in measuring the heat of chillies and no other method has been found to be as effective, which is why the Scoville Scale is still used today, albeit in a different processing format.

Scoville Heat Units (SHUs)

An SHU is the actual number assigned to the heat of a pepper. A chilli with a rating of 0 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), means that there is no heat detectable.

As an example, in the case of Japanese chillies, it took sweetened water in volumes between 20,000 to 30,000 times the pepper extract before the heat was barely discernible.

The Scoville Scale then rated the Japanese chillies 20,000 to 30,000 Scoville Heat Units. Jalapenos were rated 3,000 to 5,000, and Tabasco 30,000 to 50,000.

The hottest chilli Scoville tested was a naga jolokia which is primarily found native to Bangladesh, which he measured at a massive 850,000-1,000,000 Scoville units.

Scoville’s name has since become closely associated with the measure of pungency (heat), but the oral test is now being slowly replaced by a modern machine.

Using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography, analytical chemistry has now replaced the testing that used to be performed by the sensitive human tongue and, unlike Scovilles original method, numerous tests can be conducted each day.


Which Chillies Should I Grow Based On The Scoville Scale?

When you are considering which chillies to grow based on the Scoville Scale, there are two main factors to consider.

One consideration is what you want to grow the chilli plants for. If you want to grow them to eat, the chances are that there will be a cap as to how hot you like your chillies. Most people love chillies around 2,500 – 8,000 on the Scoville Scale such as the jalapeño, which is fresh, crunchy and delicious.

If you want to go a little hotter, the Serrano chilli pepper is a good choice, although it can reach 23,000 on the Scoville Scale in heat.

True lovers of super hot chillies will move towards the Habanero which can top 200,000 on the Scoville Scale or more.

If you want to grow chillies to sell or make products from, there are two directions to go in. One direction is making hot products most people will love, in which case peppers with good flavour and less overall spice like yellow hot peppers, jalapeños and the like will be a good choice.

If you’re going for the novelty factor, then you should choose the hottest peppers you dare grow, like the Carolina Reaper, which gained much notoriety after the one chip challenge became so famous a few years ago.

The Carolina Reaper can reach over 1.5 million SHU on the Scoville Scale.

If you do want to grow very hot peppers, you have to consider various growing factors that come with growing a product like this.

Handling, for example, of the peppers has to be done with gloves and precautions as to not touch your eyes or skin whilst handling the products.

You may well also have to include a warning with the peppers if you do sell them or products containing them.

They can cause some pretty strong reactions and it is important that anybody buying your produce understands the risks involved in consuming this kind of chilli.


How Hot Will You Go On The Scoville Scale?

Hot chillies are delicious, and knowing where on the scale your favourite peppers sit is really interesting.

There will be many more types to try in the future too, as more and more people have been trying to grow chillies that top the hottest chilli on the Scoville Scale to top the current Guinness World Record holder for hottest chilli – the Carolina Reaper.