The Scoville Scale Explained

Visitors to our shops ask a lot of questions, but the ones we get most often are about the Scoville Scale used to measure the heat of chili peppers. Today is the birthday of Wilbur Scoville, the American pharmacist who invented the system, so we thought we’d take this opportunity to explain how it works:

  • In 1912, Scoville was working for a pharmaceutical company developing a product akin to our modern IcyHot, using chili pepper derived capsaicin for the heat component.
  • Scoville needed a way to measure how hot different chilis were as he was working on his formula.
  • He devised a method to dilute a chili distillate in water until expert tasters could no longer detect the heat from the chili.
  • The number of drops of water needed to dilute one drop of the chili was reported as Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).
  • Nowadays heat testing is done in labs with high-performance liquid chromatography measuring the density of molecules and is then equated to a number on the Scoville scale. For this reason lab testing is usually limited to chilis going for the record, and not to hot sauces.




 2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units

Chile de Arbol 

 10,000-20,000 Scoville Heat Units


 10,000-23,000 Scoville Heat Units

Scotch Bonnet

 100,000-350,000 Scoville Heat Units


 100,000-577,000 Scoville Heat Units

Ghost Pepper 

 855,000-1,041,000 Scoville Heat Units

Trinidad Scorpion 

 1,200,000-2,000,000 Scoville Heat Units

Carolina Reaper

 1,400,000-2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units

Pepper X 

Estimated 3,000,000+ (Actual Scoville Heat Units TBA)

The Apollo Pepper

 Scoville Heat Units TBA



* Why does The Apollo Pepper show as TBA? Chilis can vary greatly in heat from season to season, plant to plant, and even between peppers on the same plant! In order to ensure accurate results, we test peppers from three consecutive yearly harvests before releasing numbers.

While SHUs are mostly used for chilis, we approximate them for every Hot Ones lineup. Want to see how the Season 17 sauces stack up on the Scoville scale? 


Hot Ones 10 Packs Available Now! 

Treat yourself & live the tradition with the full 10-sauce set. Check out the 10-Pack product page for the Scoville units of each lineup. 


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