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Scoville Scale

Scoville scale is used to determine the pungency of the chilly. The Scoville Organoleptic Test was invented by a pharmacist, Wilbur L. Scoville, in 1912 while working in Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company. Since that time, this method of measuring the pungent property of chilly is now used widely across the world as it was found to be systematic in approach.

Basically the pungency of the chilly depends on the location in which chilly is grown and the genetic structure of the chilly. The pungency of the chilly is due to the capsaicin, a chemical compound found in placenta of the chilly. Capsaicin stimulates the nerve endings in the tongue which transmits to brain making the body release endorphin.

Wilbur Scoville tried many different methods to measure the pungency of the chilly, but he found that the readings were not precise and consistent. He tried to mix the chilly extract with different chemical but was not successful. He found that subjective test were more successful. The tongue being sensitive reacted to the pungency of the chilly. He soaked the chilly in alcohol. The capsaicin is soluble in alcohol.

The quantity of the soaked extract is noted. Water mixed with sugar is added to the extract and given to the human subjects to taste the sample for pungency. Usually, there are five people who taste the sample. To achieve the rating, three people out of five must agree on the taste. If there is still pungency found, then the samples are further diluted with solution of alcohol and sweetened water until there is no heat felt by the tasters.

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph
The Scoville test is now done by High Performance Liquid Chromatograph, a modern machine which has replaced the human tasters. This machine is very sensitive to pungency of the chilly just like the human tongue. In this method, the capsaicin is extracted from the dried and grounded chilly pods. The sample is injected to HPLC machine to detect the pungency. The test done by high performance liquid chromatograph is less time consuming, inexpensive, and eliminates inaccuracy.

The ratio of dilution is considered as Scoville Unit. For example, the bell pepper has zero in the scale of Scoville scale. Given below are some of the examples for varieties of chilies :

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