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The Origins of the Scoville Scale
American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville scale in 1912. Scoville created the scale by way of his Scoville Organoleptic Test, which he used to measure a pepper's heat level. When conducting his test, Scoville mixed an alcohol-based extract of capsaicin oil from a pepper into a solution of sugar water and placed the solution onto the tongues of taste testers. Little by little, he diluted the solution with more water until his taste testers told him that it no longer tasted hot.
Scoville then assigned a number rating to that pepper based on how many times he had to dilute the solution to eliminate the heat. Jalapeño peppers, for instance, have a Scoville rating of 10,000, which means a jalapeño solution would have to be diluted 10,000 times before the heat was neutralized.
Modern Use of the Scoville Scale
Today, in order to obtain more accurate results, scientists use a technique called High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to determine the exact concentration of capsaicin in a pepper.
HPLC technique measures the pungency of a pepper in American Spice Trade Association (ASTA) Pungency Units. This number can be plugged into a formula that converts it to Scoville Units. Even though the process has changed since Wilbur Scoville's time, we continue to use his Scoville scale to measure the heat of peppers.
24 Types of Peppers Ranked on the Scoville Scale
The Scoville scale provides a way to compare the world’s hottest peppers with everyday varieties, measuring their pungency in Scoville Heat Units.
- Pure capsaicin: 16,000,000 SHU
- Carolina Reaper: 2,200,000 SHU
- Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2,009,231 SHU
- Trinidad Scorpion Butch T: 1,463,700 SHU
- Naga Viper: 1,382,118 SHU
- Bhut jolokia (ghost pepper): 1,041,427 SHU
- Red Savina habanero: 580,000 SHU
- Scotch Bonnet: 350,000 SHU
- Jamaican Hot: 350,000 SHU
- Habanero: 350,000 SHU
- Devil's Tongue: 300,000 SHU
- Bird's eye chili: 225,000 SHU
- Carolina Cayenne: 125,000 SHU
- Tabasco: 50,000 SHU
- Santaka: 50,000 SHU
- Chile de árbol: 30,000 SHU
- Serrano: 23,000 SHU
- Jalapeño: 10,000 SHU
- Chipotle: 8,000 SHU
- Guajillo: 8,000 SHU
- Anaheim: 2,500 SHU
- Poblano: 2,000 SHU
- Pepperoncini: 900 SHU
- Bell: 0 SHU
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