To determine the taste components of Cheddar cheese, we fractionated one mild Cheddar cheese and one aged Cheddar cheese by water extraction, freeze-drying and gel filtration. Salty, sour and umami were the three predominant tastes present in the fractions. Neither trigeminal sensations nor astringency was perceived. We used response surface methodology to reconstruct a mild Cheddar cheese taste and an aged Cheddar cheese taste in water. Less salt and less acid were needed to simulate the taste of mild Cheddar cheese, compared with aged Cheddar cheese. Our optimized water solutions (containing sodium chloride, lactic acid and monosodium glutamate) were as similar to the real cheese samples as were the water extracts of the standard cheeses. However, neither our optimized solutions nor the water extracts matched the taste of the actual cheeses.