The influence of different promoters (CeO2, MnOx, K2CO3) on various properties of a standard coprecipitated Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalyst has been examined. The catalysts prepared were characterized by Cu surface area, PTIR and TPR measurements. It was found that addition of K2CO3 reduced the Cu surface area by about 30%, whereas the Cu surface area did not decrease with addition of the other promoters. The reduction behaviour was affected by the addition of K2CO3 as well as by MnOx, but not by CeO2. The cause of these effects is possibly an electronic interaction between the promoter and Cu ions.The effect of the different promoters on the activity and selectivity has also been studied. The K2CO3 promoted catalyst has an optimum selectivity to higher alcohols at 280 °C; addition of Mn made the catalyst more selective towards methanol. At 300 °C, the Ce promoted catalyst had a high selectivity to methanol and iso-butanol. The promoting effect of the additives may be caused by stabilization of the surface intermediates leading to alcohols. Infrared measurements of adsorbed CO or adsorbed methanol on materials with and without K did not, however, provide any evidence for a difference in reaction mechanism.