Aims/hypothesis. Coffee contains several substances that may affect glucose metabolism. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between habitual coffee consumption and the incidence of IFG, IGT and type 2 diabetes. Methods. We used cross-sectional and prospective data from the population-based Hoorn Study, which included Dutch men and women aged 50-74 years. An OGTT was performed at baseline and after a mean follow-up period of 6.4 years. Associations were adjusted for potential confounders including BMI, cigarette smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and dietary factors. Results. At baseline, a 5 cup per day higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with lower fasting insulin concentrations (-5.6%, 95% CI -9.3 to -1.6%) and 2-h glucose concentrations (-8.8%, 95% CI -11.8 to -5.6%), but was not associated with lower fasting glucose concentrations (-0.8%, 95% CI -2.1 to 0.6%). In the prospective analyses, the odds ratio (OR) for IGT was 0.59 (95% CI 0.36-0.97) for 3-4 cups per day, 0.46 (95% CI 0.26-0.81) for 5-6 cups per day, and 0.37 (95% CI 0.16-0.84) for 7 or more cups per day, as compared with the corresponding values for the consumption of 2 or fewer cups of coffee per day (p=0.001 for trend). Higher coffee consumption also tended to be associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes (OR 0.69, CI 0.31-1.51 for ≥7 vs ≤2 cups per day, p=0.09 for trend), but was not associated with the incidence of IFG (OR 1.35, CI 0.80-2.27 for ≥7 vs ≤2 cups per day, p=0.49 for trend). Conclusions/interpretation. Our findings indicate that habitual coffee consumption can reduce the risk of IGT, and affects post-load rather than fasting glucose metabolism. © Springer-Verlag 2004.