Vc wrote:1. I locking the portafilter into the group is now difficult. That is, I have to push up a bit and then lock in (did not have to push up before).
That was probably just the portafilter group gasket that came off its seat. Try checking if it's in the groove completely.
As for your second problem, I have no idea. Are you sure it's happening every time? Sometimes it just happens because *ah hem* of distribution problem of the coffee. As for mine, I keep getting that in every shot and the crater on my coffee puck was very evident after I remove the dry puck. Still can't find a way to solve that other than using the old seals..