Scoville Scale

The Scoville Scale measures the hotness of chili peppers due to the chemical capsaicin. The measurement is given in Scoville Units or Scoville Heat Units sometimes abbreviated SHU.

Scoville Chart

Scoville rating

Type of pepper


Pure capsaicin


Various capsaicinoids (e.g. homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin)


Standard U.S. Grade pepper spray FN 303 irritant ammunition


Naga Jolokia


Red Savina Habanero


Habanero chili,Scotch Bonnet PepperDatil pepper, Rocoto, Jamaican Hot Pepper, African Birdseye


Thai Pepper, Malagueta Pepper, Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper


Cayenne Pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper, some Chipotle peppers


Serrano Pepper, some Chipotle peppers


Jalapeño Pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (hungarian wax pepper)


Anaheim pepper, Poblano Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper


Pimento, Pepperoncini


No heat, Bell pepper

The Scoville Scale is named after Wilbur Scoville. In 1912 Wilbur developed a method to measure the heat level of chiles while working as a chemist for Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company. The test is call the Scoville Organoleptic Test.

In the original test, Scoville diluted pure ground chiles with a sugar-water solution. A panel of testers then tasted the mixture in increasingly diluted concentration until they could no longer detect the burning sensation in their mouth. A heat level was then assigned based on how much dilution was needed.

The biggest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity. Even with professional tasters the results can vary somewhat. The accuracy of this test is often criticized and modified versions have been developed.

The most accurate method for measuring pungency in chiles is a high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). In this test, chile peppers are dried and ground. Then the chemicals responsible for the pungency are extracted, and the extract is injected into the HPLC device for testing.

Obviously this test is more costly than the original Scoville test, but it is much more accurate and repeatable. This method measures the total heat present as well as the individual capsaicinoids present.

Even though Wilbur's original test had a flaw, it was the best given the scientific equipment available during his time. For that achievement, the Scovie Awards Competition was named after him. This competition recognizes top fiery foods products from around the globe. Products are judged at an annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, held in Albuquerque, NM.

Return from Scoville Scale page to Hot Sauce Island home page.