In biomass-to-ethanol processes a physico-chemical pretreatment of the lignocellulosic biomass is a critical requirement for enhancing the accessibility of the cellulose substrate to enzymatic attack. This report evaluates the efficacy on barley and wheat straw of three different pretreatment procedures: acid or water impregnation followed by steam explosion versus hot water extraction. The pretreatments were compared after enzyme treatment using a cellulase enzyme system, Celluclast 1.5 L (R) from Trichoderma reesei, and a beta-glucosidase, Novozyme 188 from Aspergillus niger. Barley straw generally produced higher glucose concentrations after enzymatic hydrolysis than wheat straw. Acid or water impregnation followed by steam explosion of barley straw was the best pretreatment in terms of resulting glucose concentration in the liquid hydrolysate after enzymatic hydrolysis. When the glucose concentrations obtained after enzymatic hydrolyses were related to the potential glucose present in the pretreated residues, the highest yield, similar to 48% (g g(-1)), was obtained with hot water extraction pretreatment of barley straw; this pretreatment also produced highest yields for wheat straw, producing a glucose yield of similar to 39% (g g(-1)). Addition of extra enzyme (Celluclast 1.5 L (R)+Novozyme 188) during enzymatic hydrolysis resulted in the highest total glucose concentrations from barley straw, 32-39 g L-1, but the relative increases in glucose yields were higher on wheat straw than on barley straw. Maldi-TOF MS analyses of supernatants of pretreated barley and wheat straw samples subjected to acid and water impregnation, respectively, and steam explosion, revealed that the water impregnated + steam-exploded samples gave a wider range of pentose oligomers than the corresponding acid-impregnated samples.