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Shuza, S. & Binzaid, S. (2017). Pungency of Red Chili Pepper - A Method of Determining Parametric Relations through Systematic Experimentation. PHILICA.COM Article number 920.

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Pungency of Red Chili Pepper - A Method of Determining Parametric Relations through Systematic Experimentation

Shaneel Shuzaunconfirmed user (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Texas at Austin)
Shuza Binzaidunconfirmed user (Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Texas at San Antonio)

Published in engi.philica.com

This project follows the experimentation of determining the pungency of Red Chili Pepper by its pH and effective molecular parts per million (ppm). This is done by diluting amounts of market branded red chili pepper and mixing with distilled water for measuring the pH and ppm of the liquid. The test result at room temperature found linearity of ppm for weight when increased. The ppm also agreed linearly with pH, and thus the methods of experimentation were very effective. Mathematical formulations were found for the relationship of the effective pungency. A detailed report of the project is presented here.

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The substance that gives peppers their spiciness is Capsaicin, a powerful chemical present in hot peppers that irritates certain nerves in the human nose and mouth [1]. Capsaicin (C18H27NO3) is a colorless, odorless oil-like compound found primarily in the hot pepper's central membrane that holds the seeds, it is soluble in both alcohol and fat in pure form, and can be analyzed through high-pressure liquid chromatography [1,2]. Mixing of finely ground red chili pepper in water does not require any other substance, and can easily be dissolved.

A way to measure a pepper’s spiciness that has been used since 1912 is the Scoville Scale. The Scoville Scale is a series of “heat units” that range from 0 to 16 million, depending on the capsaicin content of a pepper [2,3]. For example, a jalapeno pepper has a Scoville rating of 1,500 to 4,500.

Methodology of Setup and Experimentation

In this project, a study was conducted to determine a way to scientifically find the pungency of red chili pepper from its pH and ppm [4]. The experiment was done by diluting multiples of 0.03oz of salt and 0.02oz of red chili pepper in distilled water, and then measuring the pH and ppm using commercially available instruments.

Fig. 1 through Fig. 4 show the setup for the experiment. The instruments used during the experiment are shown in Fig. 1, which were a pH meter, a ppm and temperature meter, and a small weighing scale. Three cups of distilled water were used in our experiments (Fig. 2), each was filled with distilled water. One of the cups had only distilled water (this cup was used for cleaning the meters), a second cup was used as the pepper cup and would have pepper mixed into it, and the third was the salt cup that would have salt mixed into it. Six aluminum foil disks (Fig. 3) were cut to hold the amount of pepper and salt that would be added to the cups in the experiment (an example is shown in Fig. 5). Fig. 4 shows the two samples that were used in the experiment, finely powdered red chili pepper and table salt.

 Fig. 5 through Fig. 9 show the experiment and data collection for red chili pepper. First, measured out was 0.02oz of red chili pepper on three sampling foils, as shown in Fig. 5, and then mixed it into a cup of distilled water, shown in Fig. 6. Then measured the pH and ppm of that 0.02oz pepper-water liquid (Fig. 7 and Fig. 8). After documenting the values, another sampling foil of 0.02oz of pepper was added to the liquid (making 0.04oz pepper-water liquid), and its pH and ppm were documented. Finally, another 0.02oz sample was added and values were documented; thus ended with a 0.06oz pepper-water liquid (Fig. 9).

Next, measured out was 0.03oz of salt on the remaining three sampling foils and mixed one into a cup of distilled water. Then measured the pH and ppm of that 0.03oz salt-water liquid (Fig. 10). After documenting the values, another sampling foil of 0.03oz of salt was added to the liquid (making 0.06oz salt-water liquid), and again the pH and ppm were documented (Fig. 11). Finally, the third 0.03oz sample was added and values were documented; thus ended with a total of 0.09oz salt-water liquid.

The ppm, Electrical Conductivity and Equations

Electrical Conductivity (EC) is the ability of a solution to conduct electricity because pure water does not conduct electricity, it is the dissolved salts in the water that conduct electricity. EC essentially indicates how much dissolved salt is in a given sample, and since all nutrients are salts, EC is a measure of your total nutrients. Most TDS meters will measure EC [5, 6].

The ppm tells how many parts of non-water impurities (impurity refers to anything that isn’t pure water) are in the water for every million parts water. The ppm can be calculated by multiplying EC by 6400. EC is also equal to current I divided by 2. See equations below:



Results and Discussion

This technique can be used to better gauge and rank the spiciness of peppers without tasting by mouth that is currently used by the approximation of Scoville scale. Since it is easier to measure ppm than pH, as it requires calibration, we need to know the weight (Shown in Fig. 12 through Fig. 15 for plots of weight). As pH is going to be based on ppm, when ppm is measured the formula in the plot can be used to calculate the pH and thus the pungency of the pepper, shown in Fig. 16.

As it is known that salt density or ppm variation doesn’t have any effect on pH, is proven again here. Any distilled water has pH of 7. Even though the pH was found to be lesser (shown in Fig. 17) in this project, and it was fine. It was possibly due to some amount of CO2 being absorbed by the water that caused more acidic effect, while the bottle that was sitting on the shelf in the market for a certain period. Such effect of pH change of distilled water has been reported before.


In this research project, a way to precisely determine the spiciness of a market branded pepper was established. Series of experiments were conducted using the pepper’s pH and ppm values after it was dissolved in distilled water. Results showed that as the amount of pepper added to the pepper-water liquid increased, the ppm of the liquid greatly increased while the pH slowly decreased proportionally. Thus confirming that the pungency of red pepper is acidic. Furthermore, as the amount of salt added to the salt-water liquid increased, the ppm of the liquid greatly increased while the pH stayed constant. Thus confirming that salt concentration does not change pH of water. The experiment is very justified using the methods here because the plot was linear, and thus equations were developed for the relationship of pungency for concentration, presented by the plots.


1.      Dena Kleiman, (1989), "Rating Hot Peppers: Mouth vs. Computer", The New York Times.

2.      Brian Rohrig, (2013), "Hot Peppers: Muy Caliente", American Chemical Society.

3.      Chez-Williams, "Chemistry and Scoville Units". http://www.chez-williams.com/Hot%20Sauce/chemistry_and_scoville_units.htm

4.      Kristen A. Yip, (2006), "Attack of the Chili Peppers", California State Science Fair. http://cssf.usc.edu/History/2006/Projects/J0539.pdf

5.      Eddie Snipes, (2012), "Understanding EC, CF, and PPM in Hydroponics", Suburban Vegetable Gardening. http://suburbanvegetablegardening.com/understanding-ec-cf-and-ppm-in-hydroponics/

6.      Milwaukee Instruments, (2016), "Precision Agriculture Testing Manual for PH & Electrical Conductivity (EC) in Soil – Fertilizer – Water", LIBTAKE.

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Shuza, S. & Binzaid, S. (2017). Pungency of Red Chili Pepper - A Method of Determining Parametric Relations through Systematic Experimentation. PHILICA.COM Article number 920.

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