Four kinds of solvent extracts from three Chinese barley varieties (Ken-3, KA4B, and Gan-3) were used to examine the effects of extraction solvent mixtures on antioxidant activity evaluation and their extraction capacity and selectivity for free phenolic compounds in barley through free radical scavenging activity, reducing power and metal chelating activity, and individual and total phenolic contents. Results showed that extraction solvent mixtures had significant impacts on antioxidant activity estimation, as well as different extraction capacity and selectivity for free phenolic compounds in barley. The highest DPPH* and ABTS*+ scavenging activities and reducing power were found in 80% acetone extracts, whereas the strongest *OH scavenging activity, O2*- scavenging activity, and metal chelating activity were found in 80% ethanol, 80% methanol, and water extracts, respectively. Additionally, 80% acetone showed the highest extraction capacity for (+)-catechin and ferulic, caffeic, vanillic, and p-coumaric acids, 80% methanol for (-)-epicatechin and syringic acid, and water for protocatechuic and gallic acids. Furthermore, correlations analysis revealed that TPC, reducing power, DPPH* and ABTS*+ scavenging activities were well positively correlated with each other (p < 0.01). Thus, for routine screening of barley varieties with higher antioxidant activity, 80% acetone was recommended to extract free phenolic compounds from barley. DPPH* scavenging activity and ABTS*+ scavenging activity or reducing power could be used to assess barley antioxidant activity.