Many smallholder farm systems in Uganda produce coffee as an important cash crop. Yet coffee yields are poor. To increase farmers’ production, a range of agronomic practices have been recommended by national and international agencies. Yet the adoption potential of recommendations differs between farm systems. To understand the differences in adoption potential of recommended coffee management practices in Uganda, we provide a typology of farm systems with coffee, assess the diversity between the farm types, and evaluate the current use of existing management recommendations for each farm type. Through factor analysis and cluster analysis of farms producing coffee, we identified five farm types: large coffee farms, farms with off-farm activities, coffee-dependent farms, diversified farms, and banana–coffee farms. The farm types were based on differences in size, and on the relative contributions of coffee, banana and off-farm labour to total household income. They also differ in the availability of the resources labour, land and cash, in coffee production and revenue, and in current use of most recommended practices. Qualitative analysis indicates that farm types have different constraints and opportunities to adopt recommendations. Our results highlight that an analysis of different farmsystems with coffee production, a degree of definition beyond the ‘smallholder coffee farmer’ as a homogenous entity, is important in order to understand the scope for success or failure of recommended practices.