Espresso machines can seem a little daunting at first, however in common with many electrical devices, a common sense approach, linked to a study of the instructions provided by the manufacturer, should place you on the right track towards making decent espresso coffee. Initially, familiarise yourself with the various controls, which should give you a reasonable understanding of how the device operates.
Initially, load the water reservoir up to the fill mark. It is recommended that purified water is used, as it is considered that tap water can detract from the flavour of the coffee. This of course will be a personal choice; this can be decided, once you have tried both types of water. As a rule of thumb an ounce of water will produce a shot of espresso.
Next, consider the coffee. Either grind your own beans, which will mean having a grinder, or you can purchase pre-ground espresso coffee. The purists will tell you that grinding your own beans is the only way to experience quality espresso. Once again this will ultimately be an individual selection. The texture of the ground coffee must be of a fine consistancy. Fill the portafilter (that is the device with the handle, and a cup like fitting at the end) up to the top of the cup. Remove any excess coffee, so that you finish up with a level surface. This now needs to be compressed. You will most likely be provided with a tamping tool to press the ground coffee. Use this to pack the coffee tightly into the portafilter.
Repeat the tamping process to ensure that a tight compression of the coffee is achieved. The quality of your coffee will be dictated by how firmly you press the ground coffee into the portafilter. Connect the portafilter containing the coffee to the machine, ensuring that it is locked properly in place. Next, place a cup beneath the portafilter, to receive the liquid. Switch the machine on to commence the operation. It takes considerable pressure to force the water through the packed coffee, therefore initially the liquid will be of a light colour, gradually becoming darker as the process continues, until the liquid becomes lighter again, forming a brown cream foam consistancy on the top of the cup. The entire process from pressing the start button will generally take about 30 seconds or so.
So you have made your first espresso. You will make many more, and of course gradually tailor your own style to produce espresso to exactly your own taste. A further process that your machine can achieve is to froth milk, by using the steam wand. The general rule to to inject dry steam into a jug of milk. You will have to experiment initially to ensure the wand is expressing steam only; not just hot water. You will soon adapt to holding the steam wand in the milk in the correct position to finish up with the perfect froth. Good luck with your espresso machine. Don’t forget, have patience, and you will soon be producing perfect espresso.