Sounds like you're on the right track. It'll take some practice you get the hang of it and get it dialed in just right. Really fresh coffee will seem somewhat globby and airy normally. as the extraction goes on, carbon dioxide is released from the grounds. This is how the crema comes about.
Many of us use a naked (or bottomless) portafilter. It allows us to watch the extraction as it comes from the bottom of the basket, rather than just watch the drips from the spouts.
Also, consider installing a PID on your machine. It's not necessary, but it'll help maintain temp stability and make your life easier.
See if you can find some videos of what an extraction is supposed to look like, then if you can't get it all dialed in the way you'd like, try to post a video.
Remember that the only place it all really matters is in your mouth.
. Always remember the most important thing is what ends up in your cup!
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