Several factors will influence the viability of a biochemical platform for manufacturing lignocellulosic based fuels and chemicals, for example, genetically engineering energy crops, reducing pre-treatment severity, and minimizing enzyme loading. Past research on biomass conversion has focused largely on acid based pre-treatment technologies that fractionate lignin and hemicellulose from cellulose. However, for alkaline based (e.g., AFEX) and other lower severity pre-treatments it becomes critical to co-hydrolyze cellulose and hemicellulose using an optimized enzyme cocktail. Lignocellulosics are appropriate substrates to assess hydrolytic activity of enzyme mixtures compared to conventional unrealistic substrates (e.g., filter paper, chromogenic, and fluorigenic compounds) for studying synergistic hydrolysis. However, there are few, if any, high-throughput lignocellulosic digestibility analytical platforms for optimizing biomass conversion. The 96-well Biomass Conversion Research Lab (BCRL) microplate method is a high-throughput assay to study digestibility of lignocellulosic biomass as a function of biomass composition, pre-treatment severity, and enzyme composition. The most suitable method for delivering milled biomass to the microplate was through multi-pipetting slurry suspensions. A rapid bio-enzymatic, spectrophotometric assay was used to determine fermentable sugars. The entire procedure was automated using a robotic pipetting workstation. Several parameters that affect hydrolysis in the microplate were studied and optimized (i.e., particle size reduction, slurry solids concentration, glucan loading, mass transfer issues, and time period for hydrolysis). The microplate method was optimized for crystalline cellulose (Avicel) and ammonia fiber expansion (AFEX) pre-treated corn stover. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;99: 1281–1294. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.