The LEVO oil infuser is a new product that’s elegant, quiet, and lets you infuse cannabis or other herbs into any vegetable oil or melted butter (and even alcohol if you set the temperature appropriately) for culinary purposes. Even though it lets you take complete control of all the time and temperature settings for your infusion, it’s easy to both use and clean, and costs $199 (plus tax and shipping). Let’s find out how well it works.
The LEVO looks like nothing so much as a coffee maker, especially in the black color scheme (they also have copper and stainless finishes for the same price).
Everything on the LEVO is controlled by a touch keypad on the front, which is composed of buttons with icons (it is possible to mix up the icons a bit when you’re new and excited and the light isn’t bright and you’re over 60, however). And when LEVO says “everything”, they actually mean “yes, even just to open this thing up you’re going to have to plug it in, turn it on, and hit the unlock button first”. This is quite deliberate, and part of the thinking behind this is to “protect the children” so that parents don’t have to worry about their kids accidentally opening the top up and getting access to what’s inside (all heating, stirring, and infusing goes on pause as soon as the top is unlocked for safety as well).
What’s inside is basically a high-class miniature sous vide machine with a laboratory-type magnetic stirrer for circulating liquid. But unlike general-purpose sous vide controllers, which are meant to control the temperature of water being circulated around food to cook it, the LEVO circulates your liquid of choice (generally vegetable oil or alcohol) through your herbs to fully infuse it. You set the time and temperature, and the LEVO does the rest, turning the heat and stirring off when it’s all done, and you dispense it when you’re ready. Everything that touches your food is either stainless steel or silicone.
Christina Bellman, the CEO and inventor of LEVO, told me “I’ve always been passionate about natural foods and remedies, as avoiding chemicals and processed ingredients has helped me control severe migraines that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I believe in helping others help themselves by making it easy to access natural, wholesome medicine at home. Our bodies are incredible, with the proper fuel! I continue to be fascinated with and inspired by those who have even more serious conditions and are able to heal naturally. The personal stories from our customers have made this experience particularly rewarding.”
The LEVO people were nice enough to send me a sample unit for this review, and it was one of the first off the production line. The unit defaults to a setting of 150ºF for 30 minutes, and just a few keypresses changes that to anything up to 200ºF for 10 hours. Another key combination changes the readout to Celsius. The LEVO only takes between 20 and 45 minutes to get up to maximum temperature, depending on how full the reservoir is and what liquid you’re heating.
After beginning testing, unfortunately, I ran into a problem for which I am going to accept part of the blame. In the process of first opening the unit, you must remove a plastic bag fastened around the reservoir. During this operation, I managed somehow to pull a silicone hose off the bottom of the reservoir, leaving it trapped inside the unit. Unfortunately, it was not clear to me that there was a hose that belonged on the reservoir rather than in the dispensing spout, and after my first test run all the water leaked out and damaged the internal electronics. So if you get a LEVO, make sure you hold the Dispense button down constantly during any operations involving inserting or removing the resrvoir.
In any case, we discussed this at length with LEVO, and they are now circulating more new information to their customers to help them avoid a similar problem, and they provided superb “above and beyond” customer service by immediately sending out a new unit. Problem solved!
Bubble, Bubble, But Really No Trouble
The new LEVO couldn’t have come at a better time, because Felicity had just about run out of her favorite Bubblegum capsules. This strain has been getting hard to come by around our parts, but a friend of mine managed to run into some (in the form of bubble hash) from a good dispensary somewhat south of here, so I took the opportunity to try whipping up a batch of infused coconut oil using the LEVO.
Normally with concentrates, I process everything by hand because the quantities involved are so small. Using a single gram of hash (equivalent to about 1/8 ounce of cannabis) usually leads to me using around 6 tablespoons of coconut oil for the strength Felicity prefers. I was concerned when I realized I’d have to make that gram stretch over a full 5 ounces, which is almost twice as much oil, but it’s the minimum quantity of liquid you can process in the LEVO due to the length of the heat sensor. Still, it’s the lowest usable minimum quantity we’ve ever seen from any similar product.
As I happily discovered after using one to decarb the bubble hash, an industry-standard silicone concentrate container fits exactly in the pod! The hash was a bit sticky from decarb, but curled up nicely at the bottom of the pod. Then I carefully poured in a measured 5 ounces of coconut oil. I saw something in their online guide about using a temperature between 160ºF and 175º, so I shrugged my shoulders, set the LEVO for 168º and 4 hours, and started it up. And here was the biggest difference between the LEVO and the Magical Butter Machine: the LEVO is almost completely silent. Even though the stirrer is running constantly, it’s very quiet due to the magnetic technology.
I opened the lid after 3 hours and was surprised to see that the oil in the reservoir was much darker in color than the oil I had been draining. A moment’s thought made the reason obvious: the small amount of oil I was releasing through the tube was still mostly in the tube. This means that if you’re doing any kind of testing to see how time affects potency, you’ll get more accurate readings by opening the lid and taking your sample directly from the reservoir, rather than draining a bit every hour using the “dispense” button.
This is also when I found out that the LEVO was designed so that when you open the lid during the infusion cycle, it automatically goes right back to infusion when you close the lid again (kind of like a washing machine). I did run into one odd thing at this point: the oil surrounding and behind the pod was much darker than the rest of the oil in the reservoir, something that shouldn’t be the case in a product with a magnetic stirrer. However, when I opened the LEVO again at the end (see below), all the oil seemed fairly uniform, and that’s been my experience every other time I’ve used it as well.
I admit it: after 4 hours I wimped out on the whole low-temperature thing and cranked it up to 195ºF for another two hours. Yes, I was testing the LEVO, but I really wanted to make sure my wife’s medicine was strong enough! In any case, the experiment was a success: the batch actually turned out much stronger than we anticipated, and we’ll have to dilute it before loading the oil into capsules.
We found that bubble hash (and probably also kief) does not work perfectly cleanly in the LEVO, because it’s small enough to get out of the tiny holes in the pod and mix with the oil. However, the good news is that the particles did not “bunch up” enough to interfere with using an oral syringe, so for all normal intents and purposes, there’s no real downside. Using concentrates this way is a good and often more economical method of getting higher dosages per drop, milliliter, or capsule than with bud, and we’re happy to report that it works quite well in the LEVO. And we’re calling this batch “Double Bubble”, because it’s not only Bubblegum strain, but it’s bubble hash!
Cooking With Gas Cannabis
Now was the time to test the LEVO with actual bud. I happened to have handy 1/8 ounce (3.5 grams) of Platinum Kush which tested at over 25% THC. After decarboxylation, this came to just around 3 grams, which I decided to process at 120ºF. Since LEVO recommends a coarse grind, I dug out my old-school Sweetleaf pin-style grinder, which I call “Jack the Ripper” because it basically rips apart the nugs rather than slicing them. Two or three twists per nug and I was all done.
And here’s where I encountered my first head-scratching moment. One of the big advantages of the LEVO is its ability to process smaller quantities of liquid, down to a mere 5 ounces (150 ml). But as soon as I started putting the ground bud into the pod, I saw that while the cannabis fit in the pod with plenty of room to spare, the narrow design of the pod meant that the level of bud was going to be much higher than the level of 5 ounces of oil I had used previously. I could have pushed the mass down, but I didn’t know how much I could safely compress the bud without affecting the way the oil circulated through it.
So, taking the same advice as I have been giving people for years, I figured that the way to make sure the mixture was as strong as possible was to fill the reservoir with just enough oil to completely saturate the cannabis. Then I cranked up the LEVO to 120ºF for 8 hours and let ‘er rip (which it does very quietly, as I mentioned above).
Afterwards, when I dispensed all the finished oil from the LEVO, I discovered that the total quantity of oil I had needed to use was a full 10 ounces (300 ml). Plugging the numbers into a spreadsheet I made with my potency formula showed that even with perfect decarboxylation and extraction, a finished capsule made from this stuff would yield less than 0.5 mg of THC…far too weak even for me.
But then I realized that the LEVO was intended to infuse edible oil in sufficient quantities for eating or cooking, not necessarily “take just a few drops of this oil and stuff it into a tiny capsule”. My spreadsheet also showed that a tablespoon of this oil should probably contain somewhere between 6 and 9 mg. of THC, so Felicity and I sat down to some salad with dressing made from apple cider vinegar and one very carefully measured tablespoon of infused oil, and by golly it worked just fine. So, no harm no foul for LEVO, but I was still thinking about how I could make the oil stronger without resorting to concentrates. If I put more bud in the pod, I’d have to use more oil, which would dilute it further and basically get me right back where I started.
Stronger, Must Go Stronger…
That’s when I remembered something that Doc Brown repeatedly told Marty in Back to the Future III: “You’re just not thinking fourth-dimensionally!” And that’s the secret, based largely on yet another feature of the LEVO.
Because of the design of the LEVO and their insistence on keeping all your herbs in this pod, the pure finished product is available as soon as infusion is finished, without the necessity of straining it. I hadn’t realized until now how important and ground-breaking this was, because I had gotten used to setting up and working with a funnel, strainer, and nitrile gloves, then waiting anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours before I could actually do anything with my oil or tincture. Since the oil from the LEVO comes out so cleanly, you can simply leave it in the reservoir, put a new batch of decarbed bud in the pod, run the infusion cycle again, and double the strength! And no more worries about knocking over my glitchy funnel-and-strainer setup…I’ve spilled precious finished oil with that combination more times than I’d like to remember.
Olivia Harris, LEVO’s Chief Creative Officer (and co-holder of some awesome initials) told me they’re working on releasing a double-size pod this fall that will let you use larger quantities of bud, but they also recommend filling both the pod and the reservoir for best results, and say that the current pod should be able to hold up to ¼ ounce of decarbed ground bud:
The new pod is 2x larger, and will be engineered to not interfere with the magnetic stirrer. We also have a custom Herb Pod Press coming (think of a perfectly sized plunger to get out every drop from the herb pod) and a silicone storage tray with a lid for preserving your infusions in the fridge and freezer. Those should be here and for sale by fall!
However, if you prefer your finished product stronger before then, just remember time loops and Doc Brown’s advice!
The Proof Of the Pudding Is…Mushrooms?
Giddy (OK, and high) from the salad dressing experiment, I came with another idea, this one based solely on color. All the infused coconut oil we made with the LEVO came out a beautiful golden…gold, to the point where I actually got confused and assumed it was olive oil (I told you I was high). So I got the bright idea to saute some portobella mushrooms in the batch I had made with the Platinum Kush bud. The other smart thing I did that night was giving the larger plate to Felicity, because she said she was in some pain and needed a higher dose than usual. That only turned out smart because she got way too high and I didn’t. But they even tasted like they were sauteed in olive oil…OK, infused olive oil.
Just to round out the testing, I decided to try making AVB tincture, so I dumped approximately 4 grams of that into the pod and pushed it down with my thumb. Then I added just enough Everclear to wet the top of the AVB, set the LEVO to 8 hours at 150ºF (at least 10ºF lower than the boiling point of alcohol, as LEVO recommends), and came back much later.
Once more, I ended up with about 10 ounces of tincture, but I knew those proportions wouldn’t be strong enough. So after scratching my head again for a few moments, I took the black LEVO outside to the warm California sun, propped open the top slightly, and about two hours later the solar energy had done its work and about half the alcohol had evaporated. What was left filled several dropper bottles, worked just as well as our last batch of tincture, and had been made with very little effort out of stuff that most people throw away!
The Bottom Line
All this math and logistics aside, the important things to remember about the LEVO are that it works both quietly and very well; that the finished product works, looks, and tastes amazing; and that it has uses far beyond cannabis. Next chance we get, for instance, we’re planning to infuse some vodka with chai spices (and try the same thing with caraway seeds to attempt an ersatz version of aquavit). Throw some hot peppers in the pod, pour in your favorite vegetable oil, and you can make your own oriental-style hot oil…your imagination is the only limit!
Pros: Quiet, efficient, easy to use, no straining necessary, very controllable, stealthy on your counter, child locks, reasonably priced.
Cons: Limited capacity for bud (at launch time), you will likely not hear the feeble beeps when it’s done.
Buy LEVO here: https://www.levooil.com/products/levo-oil-infuser
Psst! If you’re ordering the LEVO alone (they have another, already-discounted offer which includes a tCheck but does not qualify for this), we’ve managed to get you a deal where you’ll get 10% off if you use the code “BEYONDCHRONIC” at checkout. Enjoy!