Scoville sharpness scale
How do you measure the hotness of chili?
The concentration of the natural chemical substance capsaicin is particularly high in the placenta of the fruit. It is less in the pulp and not present at all in the seeds. However, since the kernels are attached to the placenta, the outer kernel envelope comes into contact with the capsaicin. Determining the hotness of a plant variety depends heavily on where a sample is taken from. The Scoville value never applies to every single fruit of the same variety. It varies from plant to plant and even from fruit to fruit on the same plant. The information often refers to maximum values. The capsaicin content of a fruit not only depends on the genetic disposition, but also crucially on the growth conditions, i.e. the soil conditions, the light and water supply and the time of harvest.
How is the hotness of chili measured?
In the past, a subjectively perceived sharpness was attributed to chillies. However, since the pain receptors do not react to the same extent in every person, this method is of course not very revealing. What seems super sharp to one person only wrings a tired smile from the other. It was not until 1912 that the pharmacologist Wilbur L. Scoville attempted a uniform scale for chili heat. The cause of the sensation of sharpness is the alkaloid capsaicin, which stimulates our pain receptors. Pure capsaicin has a value of 16,000,000 Scoville. Mr. Scoville scaled sharpness using maximum dilution with water. This means that one milliliter of pure capsaicin has to be diluted with 16 cubic meters of water before the sharpness can no longer be determined. Using this method, he determined the capsaicin content of individual fruits. To do this, he used subjects who he allowed to taste the dilutions until they no longer perceived any spiciness. Of course, this method cannot be particularly accurate, since it depends on the pain perception of the selected subjects. Nevertheless, it has prevailed and the spiciness of the chilies is still given as Scoville. Nowadays, however, capsaicin can be determined using chromatography (HPLC). The determined values are converted into Scoville. An equally common method of determining sharpness is classification on a scale from 1 to 10 or 10++.