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The Scoville Scale 


hot peppers



"Physiological tests are tabooed in some quarters, yet when the tongue is sensitive to less than a millionth of a grain, it certainly has an advantage."

Wilbur Scoville, 1912

In 1912, Wilbur L. Scoville, a pharmacist, devised the first modern technique for measuring a pepper’s bite. The measure is still used to this day by spice companies and sauce manufacturers everywhere. In fact, if all known peppers were measured using this technique, their scale of pungency would range from 0 Scoville units, for the bell pepper, to over a million units, for the Bhut Jolokia Ghost Pepper.

When hot peppers are consumed, capsaicinoids bind with pain receptors in the mouth and throat that are responsible for sensing heat. Once activated by the capsaicinoids, these receptors send a message to the brain that the person has consumed something hot. The brain responds to the burning sensation by raising the heart rate, increasing perspiration and release of endorphins.

After many experiments, Scoville concluded that no scientific measurement was sensitive enough to offer readings with any degree of precision. He found that the tongue was capable of detecting capsaicin (the chemical in hot peppers that is responsible for their heat) dissolved in a solution a million times its volume; no laboratory test could detect such a low concentration. 

One problem with Scoville’s test is that no two tongues ever agreed, so the panelists’ estimates had to be averaged. Another problem was that the number of tests a panelist could do in a day was limited. Because the tongue would temporarily get used to a given level of pungency, it had to be given rest to cool down before resuming the task. In an eight hour period, no more than 6 samples could be run through the panel. The machine has now replaced the human testing panel, and thirty samples can now be tested within 8 hours without concern for objective accuracy. 

The American Spice Trade Association, an industry trade group, is a strong proponent of the machine. And the HPLC machine (High Pressure Liquid Chromatograph) measurements are expressed in ASTA units, (the acronym of the trade group). But Scoville’s name has become so well established that the association has had about as much success in making people adopt the scale as the US has in adopting the metric system. The companies that do employ the modern instrument use a conversion scale to express ASTA units in familiar Scoville units. Such is Scoville’s legacy.

      We at Jehu say:    Let your tongue do the talkin'.


                                                      PEPPER TYPE

Bold print peppers are those we use for Jehu hot sauces.


Bhut, Borbih, Jolokia, Nagahari, Raja Mirchi, Ghost Pepper


Caribbean Red Habanero,  Red Savina Habanero

225,000 - 577,000

Scotch Bonnet Habanero, African Birdseye

200,000 - 325,000


100,000 - 325,000

Thai Dragon, Jamaica Gold, Santake', Jamaica Red

75,000 - 150,000

Pico de Pajaro, Chile Piquin, Charleston Hot

70,000 - 100,000


Diablo Grande', China Express, Rocoto, Santaka, Chinese kwangsi

60,000 - 100,000

Ring of Fire, Golden Cayenne

70,000 - 85,000

White Fire, Chiltepin, Tepin

40,000 - 70,000


35,000 - 55,000

Chile Grande',Tabasco, Aji Amarillo

30,000 - 50,000

Super Cayenne, Super Cayenne II, Tears of Fire Hybrid, Varingata

25,000 - 55,000

Super Chili Hybrid, Cayenne Large Red-(Thick), Cayenne Long Slim

20,000 - 40,000

Chile de Arbol


15,000 - 30,000


10,000 - 25,000

Yellow Wax/Hungarian Wax, Puya

5,000 - 15,000

Kung Pao Hybrid, Costeno Rojo

7,000 - 12,000

Louisiana Hot, Biker Billy Jalapeno, Pasilla de Oaxaca

4,000 - 10,000

Pretty Purple Pepper, Giant Thai Hot, Mitla, Jalapa, Hybrid #7, Grande', Pecos F-1, Tula F1

4,000 - 8,000



3,500 - 5,000

Miasol, Saber Hybrid, Anaheim TMR-23, Onza Rojo, Inferno, Serrano Tampinqueno, Red Cherry, Huasteco

2,500 - 5,000


Garden Salsa Hybrid, Jalapa Hybrid, Mesilla, Serrano Chili-(Mild), Hungarian Heat, , MexiBell Imp.

2,000 - 4,500

Sandia', Cascabel

1500 - 2500


Poblano, Crimson Hot, Poinsettia, Cascabel

1250 - 2500

Tam Mild Jalapeno, Szentesi Semi-Hot, Chihuacle Negro, Costeno Amarillo

1,250 - 2,000

Pasilla, Espanola, Prairie Fire, Ancho Gigantia

1,000 - 1,500

NuMex Big Jim, Floral Gem

1,000 - 1,400

Mulato Isleno, Negro/Pasilla, NuMex Joe E. Parker

900 - 1,500

Anaheim, New Mexico, Aji Mirasol, NuMex Twilight, Ancho Vila, Romanian Hot Hybrid

800 - 1,400

Aji Panca, NuMex Sunburst, NuMex Sunglow, Ancho Ranchero, Jalepe' Mild Hybrid

500 - 1000


350 - 500

Senorita Jalapeno, False Alarm Hybrid, Salsa Delight, Marbles

250 - 500

Delicias, Trinadad

200 - 500

Cherry Pepper, Mexi-Bells

100 - 500

Pasilla Bajio, Anaheim-(Mild)

100 - 250

Mild Bell Pepper, Sweet Banana, Pimento



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