Scoville Units

Measuring the Heat using Scoville Units

Wilbur Scoville was an American pharmacist who must have really liked his hot sauce! In 1912 Scoville devised the basis of the method still used today to measure the spiciness of peppers. Using this Scoville Organoleptic Test, Scoville could measure the level of capsaicin in any pepper and rank these in Scoville Units from hottest to mildest.

Why can the same types of peppers have such a big range of spiciness?

Pepper spiciness varies greatly with environmental conditions. Although all peppers grow best in hot climates with lasting sunshine, some breeds have even more complicated demands. Habanero peppers, for example, are particularly vulnerable to soil acidity preferring slightly acidic soil of pH 5 or 6. Ghost peppers, on the other hand, won’t deliver their incredible spiciness unless they are given exactly the right humidity and a soil temperature of 27 – 32C (80 – 90F). For these peppers, the right conditions must be met day after day for almost the entire growing season to get optimal growth and spiciness. A tall order for anyone trying to grow these even in the right places!

Here’s a list of capsaicin content from hottest to mildest:

Scoville Unit Scale for Peppers