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The Famous Scoville Chilli Scale - Here’s What Those Zeroes Mean

a red chilli the tittle scoville chilli scale

Spicing up Our Winter

Oh hello, February. You Wednesday of months. You snooze the button on the alarm clock of the year.

Your days are short, with the mighty, glittery spectre of Valentine’s Day looming in the middle distance.

But we have a plan for you this year February, oh yes, we do.

The only way to get through the cold and dreary greyness is to inject some HEAT. 
And we’re not talking about the beach! 

In honour of love, and all things red, we’re going to talk about something near and dear to our hearts: CHILLI spice and other things nice.

More specifically, we’ve stumbled across a useful bit of trivia on the rating of chilli hotness: the Scoville scale.

You chilli heads may know about this already, but for those of us hesitating in the shallow end of the spice pool, the Scoville scale rates and ranks hot peppers on their capsaicin content. Capsaicin, that crunchy c-word, is what gives a pepper its heat.

Just as you’d intuit, the higher the capsaicin content, the higher the heat sensation.

 

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How does the Scoville scale work?

You may think that any scale that goes beyond, say, 10, or 100 even, is outlandishly complicated. Or perhaps purposefully exaggerated.

That’s only because you don’t know the beauty in the simplicity: the number is - stay with me here - the amount of dilution an amount of the substance needs before it stops registering as ‘hot’. That’s it! So, a Scoville scale rating of ‘1' means it takes one cup of water to dilute one cup of the pepper’s capsaicin.

Of course, in the beginning, Dr. Scoville tested peppers on real people, with real mouths, and they shed real tears. While no test subjects’ impressions stood the test of time, we can only assume that their personal approval ranking of Dr. Scoville had an inverse relationship with the amount of substances they tried.

Luckily for human test subjects today, the number can be found using one laboratory test and a simple formula.

Measuring the heat units of a chilli: how hot do chilli peppers get?

Knowing what you now know, I ask you: how many SHUs (Scoville Heat Units) do you think the hottest pepper has?

10? 20? 467? That seems like a lot. I mean, our personal rating scales for almost everything we’ve ever enjoyed tends to top out 15.

But brother, our minds have been opened. Did you know that numbers can go as high as you want? There’s an almost infinite* number of possibilities!

Let us show you:

Let’s start with 0 SHUs. That lovely round (ha!) number is held by the humble and friendly bell pepper, which is famously so mild as to be known as ‘sweet pepper’.

But what is the jump to a slightly punchier pepper? Maybe… a jalapeño (popped or otherwise)? Just how many SHUs does a jalapeño register? Believe it or not, we’re already rocketing past 2000.

For those of you weeping at memories of hot sauce bottles with never-before-seen-ingredients, you are about to be triggered: The Scotch bonnet ratchets us up to a cool 100,000SHUs, and we can already feel our mouths start to sympathetically increase saliva production just reading these names. A common hot sauce ingredient, you’ll have seen her before, if you like to spice up the odd dish.

But hang on; the Naga Viper is positively astronomical at 1 million.

And top prize? The spiciest salsa ingredient possible? A veritable edible hand grenade: the terrifyingly named Carolina Reaper shuts the competition down at 2,100,000 SHUs.

And word has it that it’s not only the competition that gets shut down: whispered stories tell the tale of a man whose very arteries started to constrict after sampling the sinister beast, leaving him with headaches that would fell a donkey.

Work your way through the chilli Scoville scale

If this is right up your alley, and you’re willing to be a part of the human race’s inexplicable need to always be on the forefront of self-inflicted suffering, or perhaps you would just like to test your limits, our Chilli Rare-Box has just what you need to blow away the February nip.

Including a ‘test yourself’ Death Nut Challenge that gives you the chance to get to intimately know your fire extinguisher.

Of course, if you’re the more cautious *cough-sane-cough* type, we hope that our little written offering has helped get you through some of the February doldrums.

**there is exactly an infinite number of possibilities.

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