Last week DH bought a ticket for a charity raffle and ended up winning a brand new espresso machine! It's not a fancy one, just a basic little home countertop machine, but I did some research on it and found out a few things about it. It's a Saeco Via Veneto, a model that is now discontinued (which is probably why it was donated as a prize for the raffle) but apparently it retailed for $250 - $350! I've found quite a few good reviews for it, describing it as an excellent starter machine for the newbie who want to learn how to make espressos, capucinos, lattes, etc. We're not big coffee drinkers, and neither one of us would know a good espresso from a bad one, but we do like cappies and lattes now and then, so I thought "what the hey! I'm gonna learn how to make 'em!" So over the weekend I excitedly set it up and made sure it worked according to the instructions (without actually using any coffee) and I bought some lower-priced ground coffee to practice with. The instructions that came with the machine are pretty basic - they basically say put coffee in the filter, put the filter on the machine, turn on the pump, and fill the cup to the desired level. But nothing about whether to pack down the coffee, how much to use, what kind, how to make the different drinks, and so on. So I went onto the net and searched for some how-to information, and that was when I got TOTALLY OVERWHELMED -- there are so many experts and discussions and conflicting ideas about what is proper and what isn't that I am now thoroughly confused. I just want to learn how to make a good basic cup (shot?) of espresso/coffee with it first, and then learn how to steam milk so I can try other drinks like lattes and cappies. So does anyone use one of these at home? Do you have any tips on what to do to just make a good basic espresso? And any tips for how I can tell when I've made a good espresso vs. a not-so-good one? As you can tell, I am definitely not an espresso or coffee expert, but I'm willing to start learning!