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What is and how to do a Wilbur Scoville Organoleptic Test - Scoville Heat Units

Come to our next webinar on measuring Scoville Heat Units.

Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacist, is credited with inventing the organoleptic test around 1912. However, discussions on this test often lack a thorough exploration of its nature and the underlying mathematics. This discourse aims to delve into the test's essence and the mathematical principles that governed Wilbur Scoville's determination of Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

If you seek a more in-depth understanding of chili testing and Scoville Heat Units, we regularly conduct webinars, with the next one scheduled for February 28th. Future sessions are anticipated in March and April. For details, please contact us.

Now, let's explore the Wilbur Scoville test. It primarily revolves around quantifying the capsaicin content in a product, as capsaicin is the molecule responsible for the perceived heat. Scoville achieved this by gradually diluting the sample with sugared water. To mitigate subjectivity, he employed a panel, typically consisting of around five individuals.

Allow me to model the process he followed. Assume we begin with a panel of five people who can initially taste the heat. After the first dilution, all five still perceive the heat. Subsequent dilutions lead to individuals dropping out as they can no longer taste it. For instance, if, at dilution four, three individuals cannot perceive the heat, the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) is calculated as follows: SHU = Dilution 1 Dilution 2 Dilution 3 * Dilution 4.

To illustrate with numerical values, let's say each dilution is a factor of 10. If we dilute the sample 10 times for each of the four dilutions, the SHU would be 10 10 10 * 10, resulting in 10,000. This process is used to assess the heat level of products like Tabasco Sauce, which we measure using our Food Sensor Generation 4 product. Tabasco Sauce typically ranges from 2,000 to 5,500 SHU.

In summary, even a relatively mild sauce like Tabasco requires a high dilution (2,000 to 5,500 times) for individuals not to perceive its heat. This sensitivity is even more pronounced with extremely spicy varieties like the Carolina Reaper, requiring a dilution of 2.2 million times.

While the traditional panel approach has its challenges, modern techniques, such as the Scoville Heat Unit meter (Food Sensor Generation 4), offer more objective measurements. If you have further inquiries or wish to attend our webinars for a deeper exploration of the science behind Scoville Heat Units, please reach out to us. We would be delighted to provide you with a free link to our webinars and address any technical queries. Thank you.

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