Okay, I'll admit, I love this machine. I can walk in the door (home after work), fill it, turn it on, start the timer, grind the coffee (she's backed up with two Solis Maestro grinders, one for regular, one for decaf), and be enjoying a perfect double cappuccino in about twelve minutes. I love the look, the sound, the steam, the unsurpassed flavor. She does have limitations. This is a very traditional machine, really intended to make up to four 6oz. double cappuccinos- if that's not what you want, look elsewhere, especially if what you want is to steam up 16oz drinks.
Start out following the directions until you learn what yours wants- kind of like kickstarting an old motorcycle, they all have their little ways. Mine is pretty true to the stock directions. I let it come up to heat with the portafilter in place (with an empty basket, perfect use for the 'single' basket), say about 6 minutes, when the light goes off the first or second time, I open the steamer valve for 15 seconds or so, and when the light goes off again, I'll lift the lever and let her run a few ounces of water through. At this point, all the dripping into the tray, water that's escaping by the seals, stops. Now the portafilter is hot, and so is your cup, if you've let the water run into it as you should. Put your lightly tamped filter basket into the portafilter, pick up your steamer pitcher, and steam your milk. Forget the thermometer. You'll get 25 seconds of good steam, perfect for four ounces. Wipe the steamer wand, now she's up to pressure again. Lift the lever all the way. If you've tamped the coffee perfectly, the first drip should hit the bottom of your heated (and emptied and dried) cup in just about ten seconds. Now, one smooth pull, seven seconds or so (no, don't watch the timer, just feel it). Just before the coffee stops dripping (the last drops are rather bitter), remove the cup, pour and spoon your steamed milk over the espresso, and breathe. Take a sip. Aaaah. Perfect. Again and again and again. Easy.
Then again, I do build and race my own vintage Ducati motorcycles.
Musts: the coffee must be fresh. You must have a quality burr grinder (or grinders). The milk must be cold, the water pure.