Fermented cereal-based foods play a crucial role in attaining food and nutrition security for resource-poor populations in sub-Saharan Africa. These products are widely produced by spontaneous fermentation using of cereal grains as raw material. They have a unique taste and flavour, are rich sources of energy and their non-alcoholic nature makes them ideal for consumption by the entire population, including children. Lactic acid bacteria dominate the fermentation process and lead to a low pH of around 4, which suppresses the growth of pathogenic bacteria, thereby increasing the shelf-life and safety of the food. Knowledge about processing practices, consumption patterns and bacterial communities is essential to regulate processing and design appropriate mixes of micro-organisms to produce starter cultures for commercial production of standard-quality fermented foods that meet desired quality characteristics. In four regions of Zambia, we surveyed processing practices and consumption patterns of a spontaneously fermented cereal-based beverage called Munkoyo, commonly produced in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Variations in processing practices exist in cooking time of the unfermented maize porridge and time allowed for fermentation. Consumption is mainly at household level and the product is considered as an energy drink. Characterisation of the bacterial communities of over 90 samples with 16S amplicon sequencing on DNA extracted from the entire bacterial community revealed six dominant families, namely Streptococcaceae, Leuconostocaceae, Enterobacteriaceae, Lactabacillales, Bacillaceae and Aeromonadaceae, and a Shannon index of up to 1.18 with an effective number of 3.44 bacterial species. Bacterial communities that underlie the fermentation in Munkoyo differ in their composition for the different regions using common processing steps, suggesting that different combinations of bacteria can be used to achieve successful Munkoyo fermentation. Analysis of aroma profiles in 15 different samples from two different Provinces showed that aldehydes, esters, organic acids, alkanes, alkenes and alcohols dominated.