Low-temperature, or psychrophilic (< 20 degrees C) anaerobic digestion has been proven feasible for the mineralisation of simple wastewaters. In this study, hybrid expanded granular sludge bed-anaerobic filter (EGSB-AF) bioreactors were used to evaluate the feasibility of psychrophilic digestion for the treatment of phenol-containing wastewater. Efficient chemical oxygen demand and phenol removal were observed at organic and phenol loading rates of 5 kg COD m(-3) d(-1) and 0.4-1.2 kg phenol m(-3) d(-1) (400-1200 mg phenol [1 wastewater](-1)), respectively. There was no long-term accumulation of volatile fatty acids in the reactor systems. Methanogenic activity was developed under psychrophilic conditions but anaerobic methane-producing populations remained mesophilic throughout the trial of 415 days. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.