What is the Scoville Scale

The spiciness of a meal is measured in "Scoville", named after the American pharmacologist Wilbur L. Scoville. This once described in the "Journal of the American Pharmacists Association" a procedure for determining the capsaicin content by diluting and tasting. Put simply, capsaicin is the substance that makes peppers hot. When it comes to spiciness, the amount of capsaicin determines how spicy a food is. The higher the capsaicin content, the hotter.

During his measurements, Scoville continued to dilute a solution with capsaicin until the test subjects in his study could no longer determine the sharpness. The degree of dilution at which this was the case then indicates Scoville zero, so to speak. This corresponds to a pepper without heat. According to today's measurements, pure capsaicin, on the other hand, would have a value between 15 and 16 million Scoville.

Basically, the ratio between the liquid to be determined and the liquid used for dilution is expressed. In order not to determine any sharpness you would need around 15 million milliliters (15,000 liters) of water for 1ml of pure capsaicin. So that's 15 million units on the Scoville scale.

Subjective measurement

Today the severity level is still measured in Scoville. However, the old pharmacologist's examination no longer serves as a basis. After all, the measurement is far too imprecise. Because while some people tolerate capsaicin and the spiciness well and could not find any spiciness in the solution much earlier, others have a much more sensitive tongue and react to even minimal amounts of capsaicin. In addition, our sense of taste can also adapt to the sharpness. To attribute the degree of sharpness to a purely subjective study would therefore be extremely inaccurate.

Today the degree of sharpness is measured more precisely with the help of so-called high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). This procedure measures the concentration of capsaicinoids, which produce heat and pungency, in a substance. The unit of measurement is actually called ASTA today, named after the American Spice Trade Association. The ASTA values ​​are converted directly into the more well-known Scoville scale.

Hottest sauce in the world

Knowing the unit of measurement is one thing. Interpreting them is another. 15 million Scoville sounds like a lot, it is. In order to be able to perceive sharpness with a normal tongue, a dish needs around 16 Scoville. An average hot pepper has 100-500 Scoville peppers. Tabasco sauce has 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville and jalapenos up to 8,000 Scoville. In contrast to the hottest sauces and peppers, Tabasco has the sharpness of a glass of milk. According to the Guiness Book of Records, the hottest sauce in the world is called Blair's 16 Million Reserve and has a heat of 16 million Scoville. However, only 999 bottles of this were produced. With 7.1 million Scoville, “The Source” has long been considered the hottest sauce in the world. In comparison: commercial pepper spray has "only" 2 million Scoville.