The present study aimed to compare the effects of drinking different types of coffee before a high-glycaemic index (GI) meal on postprandial glucose metabolism and to assess the effects of adding milk and sugar into coffee. In this randomised, crossover, acute feeding study, apparently healthy adults (n 21) consumed the test drink followed by a high-GI meal in each session. Different types of coffee (espresso, instant, boiled and decaffeinated, all with milk and sugar) and plain water were tested in separate sessions, while a subset of the participants (n 10) completed extra sessions using black coffees. Postprandial levels of glucose, insulin, active glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and nitrotyrosine between different test drinks were compared using linear mixed models. Results showed that only preloading decaffeinated coffee with milk and sugar led to significantly lower glucose incremental AUC (iAUC; 14 % lower, P = 0·001) than water. Preloading black coffees led to greater postprandial glucose iAUC than preloading coffees with milk and sugar added (12–35 % smaller, P < 0·05 for all coffee types). Active GLP-1 and nitrotyrosine levels were not significantly different between test drinks. To conclude, preloading decaffeinated coffee with milk and sugar led to a blunted postprandial glycaemic response after a subsequent high-GI meal, while adding milk and sugar into coffee could mitigate the impairment effect of black coffee towards postprandial glucose responses. These findings may partly explain the positive effects of coffee consumption on glucose metabolism.