The Scoville Organoleptic Test - Wilbur L. Scoville

Many people discuss the Scoville Scale and the use of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) to measure the hotness of chillies, but how many people  have read the original paper from  1912 by Wilbur Scoville paper printed in the American Pharmaceutical Association?


At FoodSense we have read this two page document,  and so this has given us an appreciation as to the precision and accuracy of the Scoville Scale/Method.


In his paper Scoville says ...'One grain of ground capsicum is macerated over night in 100 cc. of alcohol. After thorough shaking, filtered. This alcoholic solution is then added to sweetened water to definite proportions until a distinct but weak pungency is perceptible on the tongue'...


A fiver person panel would taste these progressively diluted samples and when three of the five agreed that the taste was still 'weakly pungent', then the number of dilutions required to get to that point was recorded as the Scoville Score.


Scoville reported some  of his results as ...'Japan Chillies tested 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 30,000, Zanzibar Chillies, 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 45,000 (two lots) and Mombassa Chillies 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 100,000, ....Oleoresins of capsicum many test 1 in 150,000'...


It is interesting that in the Scovilles paper only 60 % of people had to agree for the score to be assigned, and the variability in results was a high as 50 %.


In recent times people have tried to modernise this subjective testing with objective testing, as discussed in the buttons below.