Make sure your machine is heated up. Also, preheat your espresso cup with hot water.
Remove porta-filter and wipe it out to clean and dry the basket.
Grind and dose your coffee. The grind should be a very fine powder but not too fine (feel the grind and “pinch” and feel a little “sand” texture). Use 18-21 grams (about 3 Tablespoons) depending on your porta-filter basket. This should fill the basket, with enough coffee to have a small “mound” in the porta-filter. Tap the porta-filter on the counter or grinder to settle the coffee.
Make sure that grounds are evenly distributed in the porta-filter. To level, keep your finger straight and glide your finger across the surface of the coffee to create an even surface. Then “Tamp” the coffee. Make sure the tamper is level to allow for even extraction
Flush the group-head of the espresso machine. (this should also be repeated after the espresso is made and the porta-filter is removed). Then insert the porta-filter into the group-head. Place your cup under the porta-filter and start the brew cycle.
Look for a slow stream then steady after 8-10 seconds). The entire extraction should take 21-26 seconds to brew 1.5 ounces of espresso. (if this step takes longer, check the grind as it may be too fine; if this step takes a shorter length of time then the grind may be too coarse)
Look for good “crema” – the surface of the espresso should have a light tawny-tan color.