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Scoville Ketchup Units

PostPosted: Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:04 am
by ArdRhi
Scoville is better than nothing, but he derived his units by the wonderfully-objective mechanism of extracting capsaicin from peppers with alcohol, then hand-titrating it with sugar water until volunteers could barely taste the heat on their tongues. The amount of sweetened liquid required to counteract the pungency of the amount of capsaicin tested represented his "Scoville units" of heat. (20,000 units of sweetened liquid to counteract 1 unit of Japanese pepper extract = 20,000 SHU.) His biggest problems in performing this test was that no two tongues could agree, so his results had to be averaged across many volunteers, and because it took time for the tongue to "recover" from the capsaicin, he could only give 6 doses per volunteer in an 8-hour period to get any kind of accuracy. So when it was originally established, the Scoville scale was no more objective than "mild, medium, or hot".

Thankfully, modern high-pressure liquid chromatographs can accurately measure the capsaicin content of a sample. The output of such tests are usually expressed in ASTA (American Spice Trade Association) units, but are commonly converted to Scoville due to the popularity of the scale.