You want to actually fill the water tank completely-that way, you don't have to worry about the machine running out of water mid shot. The machine heats on its own once it is turned on, and you do want to make certain that you have followed the priming instructions first so that water flows through the machine properly before brewing. If you are using pods, you want to use the pod basket and the two way pin (known in your manual as the frothing jet device). In general, pods work best if you are only pulling about 1-1.5 ounces through them. If you have any further questions or concerns, please call technical support at 1-888-411-5282, option 3.